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New Lawyers in New York Must Give First 50 Hours Free


(Photo: Jorge Martínez)

Fascinating article in today’s Times, by Anne Barnard:

Starting next year, New York will become the first state to require lawyers to perform unpaid work before being licensed to practice, the state’s chief judge announced on Tuesday, describing the rule as a way to help the growing number of people who cannot afford legal services.

The approximately 10,000 lawyers who apply to the New York State Bar each year will have to demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of pro bono work to be admitted, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. He said the move was intended to provide about a half-million hours of badly needed legal services to those with urgent problems, like foreclosure and domestic violence.

I have no idea how this will play out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the new measure produces a few unintended consequences. Will it, e.g., discourage some lawyers from applying to the New York Bar? Will the flood of pro bono work from inexperienced lawyers actually produce the desired result? Will there arise a market in swapping/buying/fraudulently claiming pro bono hours? I am sure some people will frame this measure as a tax on lawyers, New York-style. And it will be interesting to see whether/when other states follow.

Also: what would happen if newly minted doctors were similarly seconded into pro-bono work?