Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More on the new pro bono requirement in New York

Yesterday I wrote (here) that starting in 2013, candidates to admission in New York state will be required to show that they have performed at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono service as a requirement for admission to the New York state bar. The Wall Street Journal has a short piece on this here.  But the more interesting comment on this I have seen is over at My, a blog mostly dedicated to discuss issues related to the practice of law by solo practitioners.

In that comment, the author makes a good argument that  the new pro-bono requirement discriminates against solos and is unfair to new lawyers.  She argues, in part, that
. . .  given that law students are graduating deeply in debt, shouldn’t they focus on paying work . . . rather than working for free. Moreover, if students or new grads are going to work for free and haven’t yet found a job, isn’t it more sensible for them to spend their time finding paying work than doing pro bono?

Second, who’s going to supervise all of this unpaid labor? Have we forgotten that at the height of big law layoffs, displaced associates and unemployed lawyers flooded legal aid offices and couldn’t find work for free. Why should it be different now?

Third, . . . Isn’t it enough that many of the lawyers of my generation or older completely wrecked the legal profession by racking up huge profits-per-partner with a sense of arrogance . . .  I am outraged and offended that wealthy lawyers are passing the buck to those just starting out. Pro bono may be one of our professional obligations, but so too is training and mentoring and helping the next generation of lawyers – not making them the fall guys for our mistakes.

Although this ill-conceived program adversely impacts all lawyers, needless to say, it harms solo lawyers most of all. The New York Bar President anticipates that some new graduates will satisfy the pro bono requirement after they’ve taken the bar exam and have started working in paid positions. Uh – new solos don’t have that luxury – starting out, many solos will take any work to make ends meet as they prepare to start a firm. While it’s true that taking a pro bono or CLE can help new solos gain training, if a solo to be has a chance to do paid work for a lawyer, he or she need to jump on it because there’s no telling where the next pay check will come from.
You can read the full argument here.

No comments:

Post a Comment