Yesterday New York CJ Jonathan Lippman launched a Conference on the role of law schools in access to justice. He used to opportunity to make several announcements about the planning and direction of the new pro bono requirement for those seeking NY bar membership. Most important, in my view, for the future was this remark he made about the values that guide the profession:
By requiring, as a condition for admission to the bar and the practice of law, that applicants demonstrate 50 hours of participation in law-related and uncompensated pro bono service, we are sending a very strong message that assisting in meeting the urgent need for legal services is a necessary and essential qualification to becoming a lawyer. We are stating loudly and clearly that service to others is an indispensable part of our legal training, and that you cannot call yourself a lawyer in New York, unless you show your commitment to our profession’s ideals. (Bold added)
Its a powerful statement, and one that has potential implications way beyond pro bono. It suggests that principle of service and access must imbue the bar’s membership, role, activities, and indeed, regulatory structure.
Here is the speech, well worth a full read.
CJ Lippman is very highly regarded among his chief justice colleagues. Let’s hope this attitude to access to justice is influential in other states too.