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LawCrossing Legal Daily News Feature

Free Work Contribution Made Mandatory Precondition for NY Bar Enrollment On Tuesday, the Chief Judge of the State of New York, Jonathan Lippman, announced that from next year, New York would become the first state with a precondition for bar aspirants to contribute free legal work before being licensed to practice. The chief judge said that the rule would help the growing number of pending cases and people who cannot afford legal services. The close to 10,000 applicants to the NY bar every year would from now on need to prove at least 50 hours of pro bono service before getting enrolled at the state bar.


economic turmoil. Even people applying for disability benefits do not have a constitutional right to free legal representation.

The Chief Judge says the extraordinary measures are needed in face of rapidly changing socio-legaleconomic scenario where ordinary people are facing

Experts say that Judge Lippman’s decision may not

what is called a “triple whammy”: increasing numbers

be acceptable to most lawyers as lawyers cultivate

of people facing acute financial struggles; increasing

the spirit of independence and do not like being told

numbers of people requiring legal services to help with

what to do. Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono

foreclosures, evictions and credit and employment

Institute, a nonprofit group expressed his doubts about

problems; increasing numbers of state and federal

reluctant lawyers being of much help. “I worry about

financing sources continuing to dry up.

poor people with lawyers who don’t want to be there,” he said to the media.

The condition is so horrendous that the Legal Aid Society has to turn away eight out of every nine people

However, Judge Lippman said, “The legal profession

seeking legal help in civil matters. Steven Banks,

should not be seen as argumentative, narrow or

the attorney-in-chief of Legal Aid Society (NY group)

avaricious … but rather one that is defined by the

reported that since 2008, healthcare related legal aid

pursuit of justice and the desire to assist our fellow

requests have jumped by 40 percent, unemployment


insurance and work related claims have jumped by 54 percent, domestic violence remedy seeking has

Supporters of the policy point out that with the current

jumped by 16 percent, and foreclosure help requests

job situation in the market for fresh law graduates, the

have jumped by 8000 percent. While the constitutional

mandatory requirement for pro bono work would serve

right to free legal representation is available in case

as a blessing in disguise and allow all new graduates

of criminal defendants, the same is not applicable in

the opportunity of gaining 50 hours of real work-

the case of civil defendants regularly drowning in this



Free Work Contribution Made Mandatory Precondition for NY Bar Enrollment  

Mandatory pro bono work for lawyers seeking admission to NY state bar from next year.

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