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…

Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades

It’s that time of year again. Law students across the country are poring over their class notes and supplements, putting the finishing touches on their outlines, and fueling their all-night study sessions with a combination of high-carb snacks and Java Monsters. This can mean only one thing: exam time is approaching.

If you’re looking for a brief but effective guide to improving your exam performance, the O’Quinn Law Library has the book for you. Alex Schimel’s Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades, now in its second edition, provides a clear and concise strategy for mastering the issue-spotting exams that determine the majority of your grade in most law school classes. Schimel finished second in his class at the University Of Miami School Of Law, where he taught a wildly popular exam workshop in his 2L and 3L years, and later returned to become Associate Director of the Academic Achievement Program. The first edition of his book was written shortly after he finished law school, …