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Albany, NY - Chief Judge Proposes More Free Legal Help

Published on: May 1, 2012 05:32 PM
By: AP
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Albany, NY - New York will become the first state to require lawyers to do 50 hours of pro bono work as a condition for getting a license starting next year, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said Tuesday.

With about 10,000 people passing the New York Bar Exam annually, Lippman said that means about a half-million hours of free legal work yearly, mostly from law students. That should help fill “the justice gap” for the poor, working poor “and what has recently been described as the near poor” whose needs have risen sharply in a tough economy, he said.

“The courts are the emergency rooms of our society,” Lippman said. Addressing lawyers, judges and other officials gathered for Law Day, he noted that only about 20 percent of the need is being met for civil legal services for the poor, though state support is up to $40 million this year and many lawyers already do pro bono work, now an estimated two million hours yearly in New York.

Currently no states require doing pro bono work as a condition of admission to the bar, according to the American Bar Association.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the pro bono requirement, as well as other measures Lippman has instituted for the state’s courts, should help more families stave off mortgage foreclosures under better circumstances than the rest of the country. Since 2008, following the crash of the housing bubble, American families have lost $7.4 trillion in home equity, and foreclosures rose sharply, along with abuses like improper documentation and deceptive refinancing offers, he said.

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“In fact about half of New Yorkers facing foreclosure do so without a lawyer,” Schneiderman said. As part of a 49-state settlement with five major lenders, those banks agreed to establish new mortgage servicing standards and commit more than $25 billion. That includes $15 million that will be used this year in New York to fund legal services to prevent foreclosures, he said.

New York requires 90-day notices to borrowers at risk of foreclosure, settlement conferences and that lenders’ attorneys sign affirmations that their documents are in fact accurate, a requirement in November 2010 that “drastically reduced” the number of foreclosure filings, Schneiderman said. Starting this summer, lender representatives at foreclosure proceedings will have to come with authority to negotiate, he said.

Lippman said he hopes that the pro bono requirement will generate ongoing interest in that work by lawyers who otherwise wouldn’t do it, although 21 law schools nationally require it and most others have clinics where students can get experience doing free work under faculty supervision on issues like evictions, foreclosures, divorces and contracts, also possible at outside legal aid groups. “Pro bono service has been part of the professional lives of lawyers for centuries,” he said.

“We’re turning away eight clients for every nine that come in for help,” Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief for the Legal Aid Society of New York City, said afterward. He said they take about 44,000 civil cases a year. “This initiative will certainly help,” he said.


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1

 May 01, 2012 at 07:09 PM CTJEW Says:

As many non-NYS resident take the NY Bar in order to do limited work in NY this requirement of 50 hours of free work before getting a NY license is quite unfair. I don't live in NY, when I took the Bar exam, I went to NY on Tuesday and took the NYS portion of the exam, returned to my home state that night and took the national exam on Wednesday and my own state's exam on Thursday. This is quite common.
I had no desire to practice law in NY, and don't, BUT the firm that was hiring me right out of law school had some important clients with business in NY and wanted all new associates admitted in NY. There is no way that while in law school I could have perormed 50 hours of pro bono work in NY (I was 3000 miles away) and I had never taken a single course in NY law. I learned the NY distinctions while studying for the bar exam.
It is likely that this new proposal would not withstand a constitutional challenge (pethaps a commerce clause issue).
I'm now 60 and have never had to go into court in NY. Like many attorneys I have a letterhead that says "Admitted in X, Y and Z" but a client in NY would probably be better served by a recent graduate of a NYS law school.

2

 May 01, 2012 at 07:44 PM judith Says:

Good idea, now what about doctors and dentists doing pro bono work?????????

3

 May 01, 2012 at 10:06 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
judith Says:

Good idea, now what about doctors and dentists doing pro bono work?????????

judith Says: “ Good idea, now what about doctors and dentists doing pro bono work????????? ”

Why?

Maybe you should get everything from everyone for free?

4

 May 01, 2012 at 10:43 PM NYConservative Says:

Let's see, hard working Americans pay thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes 50% of which goes to the 'entitlement class.' Now, on top of that, they want law students to each do 50 hours of pro bono work to get admitted. Several times I have now been ordered to do 'pro bono' work for supposedly indigent people on divorce cases. Where do the judges get the balls to do that? Have they not heard of the 13th amendment which prohibits involuntary servitude?
Here's a novel idea, Judges: instead of ordering lawyers to do pro bono work to represent 'indigent' spouses, why not have Judges work for free on weekends and hear 'small-claims divorces?' Of course this would be held on weekends so it would not conflict with normal court hours and the Judges, like the lawyers ordered to work for free (under the noble name 'pro bono') can experience the pleasure of 'investing' (to borrow a favorite liberal term) what little there is of their free time to help the indigent class (by which I mean the men and women who work off the books and receive 'Earned Income credits and of course lie about their income).

5

 May 01, 2012 at 11:52 PM absurd Says:

The most retarded proppsal yet of these progressive legislate from the bench meshugaim. Like Judith wants -doctors dentists and cpas should work for free. What about all the speech and nursing students? Retarded requirement unfair probably unconstitutional but may prevail as the chief judge is for it.

6

 May 02, 2012 at 08:07 AM RachelJD Says:

This is a noble ideal but I'm not sure that it is practical or enforceable. Law grads today are graduating with thousands of dollars in debts. Those lucky enough to find jobs have insane billable hours requirement, those who hang out there own shingle must put every minute into making their practices work. I believe in giving back but not in being "ORDERED" to do so. And as #1 says, many take the NYS Bar even though they do not reside here but their employers require NY Admission but the attorneys may never do any work in NY
The whole idea of being ordered to work for free strikes me as unAmerican.

7

 May 03, 2012 at 12:21 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
NYConservative Says:

Let's see, hard working Americans pay thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes 50% of which goes to the 'entitlement class.' Now, on top of that, they want law students to each do 50 hours of pro bono work to get admitted. Several times I have now been ordered to do 'pro bono' work for supposedly indigent people on divorce cases. Where do the judges get the balls to do that? Have they not heard of the 13th amendment which prohibits involuntary servitude?
Here's a novel idea, Judges: instead of ordering lawyers to do pro bono work to represent 'indigent' spouses, why not have Judges work for free on weekends and hear 'small-claims divorces?' Of course this would be held on weekends so it would not conflict with normal court hours and the Judges, like the lawyers ordered to work for free (under the noble name 'pro bono') can experience the pleasure of 'investing' (to borrow a favorite liberal term) what little there is of their free time to help the indigent class (by which I mean the men and women who work off the books and receive 'Earned Income credits and of course lie about their income).

If you actually ARE a lawyer, you are not a very good one, nor a realistic one.

You obviously have no real understanding of what indentured servitude is (hint: this isn't it, and neither are the mandatory classes we attend).

Your suggestion of getting judges to do anything they don't want to is incredibly ridiculous, and if you are a lawyer, you know that judges don't even show up for the jobs they already have, coming in late, leaving early, and having their clerks do any real work that is necessary.

And your belief that indigent people are simply people who work off the books is not only ignorant, but insulting. There are real people and real families who are poor and struggle to have enough to eat, let alone a place to live.

You are an arrogant, self-righteous idiot.

8

 May 03, 2012 at 12:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
absurd Says:

The most retarded proppsal yet of these progressive legislate from the bench meshugaim. Like Judith wants -doctors dentists and cpas should work for free. What about all the speech and nursing students? Retarded requirement unfair probably unconstitutional but may prevail as the chief judge is for it.

I find your repeated use of the word "retarded" in this context extremely offensive and extremely inappropriate, especially coming from a supposedly-frum Jew. I meant to say, from a kike, hymie, big-nose, yid, jewboy, hebe.

9

 May 03, 2012 at 12:26 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
RachelJD Says:

This is a noble ideal but I'm not sure that it is practical or enforceable. Law grads today are graduating with thousands of dollars in debts. Those lucky enough to find jobs have insane billable hours requirement, those who hang out there own shingle must put every minute into making their practices work. I believe in giving back but not in being "ORDERED" to do so. And as #1 says, many take the NYS Bar even though they do not reside here but their employers require NY Admission but the attorneys may never do any work in NY
The whole idea of being ordered to work for free strikes me as unAmerican.

well, if it strikes you as unamerican, you, as a lawyer, are in the best position to complain.

Why don't you file a motion to put a stop to what you regard as unamerican and unconstitutional and see how the judges feel about being put in their places by an attorney like you.

By the way, no one is forcing you to be a lawyer. If you don't like it, you can always open a fruit store or deliver pizza, you ungrateful, selfish hypocrite.

10

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