Bloomberg Law Article on Impact on Law Student Pro Bono Requirement

Liz Tobin Tyler and David S. Udell have an article up on Bloomberg Law.  It discusses the impact of the New York bar application pro bono requirement.  Its a useful survey for those considering advocating for a similar requirement on other states, and includes a useful summary of the arguments in favor of such requirements.

For those not fully up to date, the article has a particularly useful section on recent developments (footnotes ommtted):

Initial reaction to the new rule was mixed in New York and nationally, with some critics applauding the goal but opposing the means and questioning the details.16 Yet, by the time the Court’s blue ribbon Advisory Committee issued its report (four months after the Chief Judge’s initial announcement), the focus in New York among deans, students, the Legal Aid Society of New York, and the State Bar, was on moving ahead with effectuation of the rule. The legal services bar and other stakeholders in New York have begun developing new concepts for structured placements able to accommodate the expanded number of students seeking to fulfill the 50 hour requirement.

In announcing the rule, the Chief Judge stated: “It is my hope that New York will serve as the trendsetter nationally in requiring pro bono service for admission to the bar and in recognizing that it is an essential part of what it means to be a lawyer.” Of necessity, courts, states, law schools and other stakeholders across the country are now considering the implications of the New York rule. For the first time, students, regardless of where they live, must complete the 50 hours and document their pro bono service if they are planning on bar admission in New York. Indeed, in at least two states, California and New Jersey, formal initiatives are underway to evaluate whether those states should, themselves, adopt their own statewide pro bono learning requirements. In an op ed in the National Law Journal (December 2012), Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, calls on all states to replicate the New York model.

And, in a related development, the ABA has been asked to incorporate a 50 hour rule into the ABA’s standards for law school accreditation. This approach would establish, as a nationwide expectation of law schools, that all students perform pro bono service as part of their legal education. If adopted, it would have the virtue, among others, of reducing, if not eliminating, the prospect of divergent state-by-state standard-setting, thereby reducing the compliance challenge that would otherwise confront every person unsure of where he or she might ultimately practice after law school. The ABA committee reviewing the ABA’s accreditation standards has so far declined to give serious consideration to the proposal for a national 50 hour standard, but the review process will move forward with next rounds in which it seems inevitable that the proposal will receive more attention.

It is particularly good to see CJ Lippman’s continued leadership and impact in this, as other, areas.

Other possibilities for reform are now in play. The New York Unified Court System, in steps that appear to flow naturally from the 50 hour rule, is recommending additional changes to strengthen law student pro bono and increase access to justice in New York.23 While the national impact of these new recommendations is difficult to gauge at this time, the recommendations are notable for such concepts as: i) ensuring the development of technology that will help to match students to open pro bono positions and that will systematize tracking and reporting of students’ pro bono service; ii) ensuring that schools offer coursework that will prepare students for their required pro bono service, and iii) ensuring that law schools and other justice system stakeholders (the legal services bar, courts, and others) meet together annually so that schools are apprised of areas of greatest unmet need in the justice system.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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