Skip to main content

Mandatory Pro Bono Coming to a State Near You?



Last year, the New York State court system announced a new 50-hour pro bono requirement for new attorneys who wish to be admitted to the bar. The requirement, now codified at N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 520.16, demands that all applicants admitted to the New York State Bar after January 1, 2015, “complete at least 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service prior to filing an application for admission with the appropriate Appellate Division department of the Supreme Court.” The statute further specifies that that “qualifying pro bono service” must be supervised, and assist in the provision of legal services without charge for persons of limited means, not-for-profit organizations, or individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or promote access to justice (N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 22 § 520.16(b)-(c).  For New York applicants, work in law school clinics and court clerkships or externships will count toward the required hour, and may be completed in any U.S. state. (See, Karen Sloan, Pro Bono Mandate Gains Steam, Nat’l L.J.(Apr. 22, 2013), http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202596770850).

It appears that California may be following New York’s lead, as the California bar’s Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform recently completed a draft report recommending the adoption of a 50 hour pro bono mandate, to be completed either during law school or the first year of practice (http://www.calbarjournal.com/March2013/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx). Other states seem more hesitant; New Jersey’s State Bar Association passed a resolution opposing any pro bono mandate, though the state also has a task force exploring the idea. But, if California joins New York in demanding pro bono service prior to bar admission, it is possible the idea may take root in other states. One potential problem is that if states develop different requirements, it may be onerous for law students to prepare for admission in other states, especially if students are fortunate enough to have the option to work in a number of jurisdictions. There also must be consideration of how meaningful the legal work of the students would have to be to qualify for the programs, and how to ensure sufficient resources to supervise the legal work of law students. 

In Texas, there is no mandated pro bono service, either for admitted attorneys, or for applicants to the bar. A 2009 survey of Texas lawyers found that 52% performed free legal services that “substantially benefited the poor” (State Bar of Texas 2009 Survey of Pro Bono, at 9 ). Yet, even while most Texas attorneys provide pro bono service, substantial need remains. There is one Texas attorney for every 322 Texas citizens, but only one Texas Legal Aid attorney for every 10,838 indigent Texans (Patricia L. Garcia, Partnering for Pro Bono, 74 Tex. B.J. 422 (2011)), and it follows that the legal needs of many Texans are going unmet. Texas lawyers who perform at least 75 hours of pro bono legal assistance activities may join the state bar’s Pro Bono College, which was created to honor Texas attorneys and paralegals who far exceed the aspirational pro bono goals set out by the state bar (http://www.texasbar.com/Content/NavigationMenu/LawyersGivingBack/LegalAccessDivision/ProBonoCollege.htm). Word has it that the Pro Bono College will soon extend membership to law students who complete a substantial amount of pro bono service that is law related, uncompensated, and not performed for academic credit. Whether or not this will lead to mandatory pro bono service for bar applicants remains to be seen, but Texas will certainly benefit from more legal assistance from its soon-to-be attorneys.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Spying and International Law

With increasing numbers of foreign governments officially objecting to now-widely publicized U.S. espionage activities, the topic of the legality of these activities has been raised both by the target governments and by the many news organizations reporting on the issue.For those interested in better understanding this controversy by learning more about international laws concerning espionage, here are some legal resources that may be useful.

The following is a list of multinational treaties relevant to spies and espionage:
Brussels Declaration concerning the Laws and Customs of War (1874).Although never ratified by the nations that drafted it, this declaration is one of the earliest modern examples of an international attempt to codify the laws of war.Articles 19-22 address the identification and treatment of spies during wartime.These articles served mainly to distinguish active spies from soldiers and former spies, and provided no protections for spies captured in the act.The Hagu…

Citing to Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated: Finding Accurate Publication Dates (without touching a book)

When citing to a current statute, both the Bluebook (rule 12.3.2) and Greenbook (rule 10.1.1) require a  practitioner to provide the publication date of the bound volume in which the cited code section appears. For example, let's cite to the codified statute section that prohibits Texans from hunting or selling bats, living or dead. Note, however, you may remove or hunt a bat that is inside or on a building occupied by people. The statute is silent as to Batman, who for his own safety, best stay in Gotham City.
This section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife code is 63.101. "Protection of Bats." After checking the pocket part and finding no updates in the supplement, my citation will be:
Tex. Parks & Wild. Code Ann. § 63.101 (West ___ ). When I look at the statute in my bound volume of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code, I can clearly see that the volume's publication date is 2002. But, when I find the same citation on Westlaw or LexisNexis, all I can see is that the …