Interesting news from the state of New York last week. Starting next year, prospective lawyers seeking to pass the New York state bar will be required to perform 50 hours of pro bono work, in addition to taking the grueling test, before being admitted.
I like this plan for several reasons:
- It acclimates lawyers to pro bono service before they can hang out a shingle. Fifty hours may not be enough time to instill the pro bono ethic in a future lawyer, but it will introduce each of them to the process and help recalibrate expectations over time. The upcoming generation of lawyers will all have pro bono experience to draw upon.
- It addresses a specific need in the state. The legal aid system cannot keep up with the demand for free or low-cost services. And the people seeking these services are already in financially precarious situations, so they need competent counsel and an advocate who can help them navigate the complicated system. There are budding lawyers who need practical experience. This is a simple, pragmatic solution.
- New York is one of the toughest state bars to pass and one of the most coveted memberships. If they can make it work there, this can work anywhere. (And yes, that is a nod to Sinatra.) The Empire State sets the standard, and I hope to see more states following their lead in the next few years.
Chalk this up as a win for the pro bono movement.
Nice work, New York!