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Albany, NY - New 50 Hours Pro Bono Requirement For Lawyers

Published on: September 19, 2012 10:18 AM
By: AP
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Albany, NY - With New York set to become the first state to require lawyers to perform 50 hours of pro bono work as a condition for getting a license, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and other officials plan to unveil details in Manhattan.

Lippman, who announced the program in May, says it means about a half-million hours of urgently needed free legal work yearly for New York’s poor, while helping instill many career-long commitments to keep doing it.

About 10,000 new lawyers pass the state’s bar exam annually.

More than 20 law schools nationally require students to do pro bono work, while most others have clinics where students can get experience under faculty supervision.

Details will be announced Wednesday at New York University’s law school. The program starts next year.


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1

 Sep 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM RachelJD Says:

This may be well-intentioned but short-sighted. Many law school provide "clinics" that parallel real-life practice but they do not necessarily provided enough practical skills to qualify newly minted lawyers to take on clients solo. Even though these pro-bono mandates say that experienced lawyers will supervise, it is quite a burden on them. I volunteered for a pro-bono program while still in law school but the experienced staff was so overworked that they had no time to train or assist me. I left the program because the people that came to the program were facing eviction. A mistake on my part could have mean homelessness for them. Half a loaf may be better than none, but I dont agree that applies to law. These well-meaning mandates can result in the poor getting harmed by inexperienced practictioners. I am willing to take a low paying entry level job where I can develop my skills under good supervisory attormeys, but using poor people as guinea pigs in pro-bono programs which by necessity are simply assembly line justice is not fair or helpful to anyone.

2

 Sep 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM Anonymous Says:

A 50 hour requirement is really not that much...most lawyers in our firm and other large NYC firm provide 75 to 100 hours annually and those hours are considered the same as "billable" hours for purposes of annual bonus determinations. Hopefully, more firms will encourage their attorneys to exceed the 50 hour requirment.

3

 Sep 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM judith Says:

What about pro bono for doctors and dentists.

4

 Sep 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM Longwave Says:

Seeing the billing practices that lawyers have today (1 hour minimum for a 1 minute phone call). I can see a lawyer going to Parking violations bureau. He will stand there for 1 hour, giving advice to 50 people for free. Voila! 50 billable hours and he is free for the next year.

A better way is to take his billable SALARY for 50 hours, and donate that amount. And that amount should not be deductable from taxes.

5

 Sep 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM Many attorneys make less than other professionals Says:

Not all attorneys end up in the white shoe law firms and can afford to contribute of their time while shaping their corporate image. Many attorneys have a hard time making ends meet and have hefty student loans to pay off on a 50,000 or less yearly salary in a small or mid sized firm (or in public interest etc.) bit is wrong to expect all attorneys to give back to the community equally. That's like asking for everyone to pay taxes at the same rate! Maybe nurses and therapists should volunteer 50 hours yearly. Some of them make significantly more per year than attorneys that did not make law review or attend a top tier law school. How will the pro bono hours be calculated? Can you write off billable hours that were left unpaid? The closing you did for your brother in law? Legal advice you gave your cousin getting divorced?

6

 Sep 19, 2012 at 01:03 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Longwave Says:

Seeing the billing practices that lawyers have today (1 hour minimum for a 1 minute phone call). I can see a lawyer going to Parking violations bureau. He will stand there for 1 hour, giving advice to 50 people for free. Voila! 50 billable hours and he is free for the next year.

A better way is to take his billable SALARY for 50 hours, and donate that amount. And that amount should not be deductable from taxes.

You've obviously not been to a reputable law firm. Most firms today bill time in increments of 1/10 or 1/6 of an hour. Its both unethical or illegal or both to charge one hour time for a one minute matter unless your retainer letter explicity states you will bill in increments of ONE HOUR. I don't know any major law firm that does so.

7

 Sep 19, 2012 at 01:34 PM Realitycheck Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

A 50 hour requirement is really not that much...most lawyers in our firm and other large NYC firm provide 75 to 100 hours annually and those hours are considered the same as "billable" hours for purposes of annual bonus determinations. Hopefully, more firms will encourage their attorneys to exceed the 50 hour requirment.

In case you may not have noticed from the perch of your white shoe firm, not all lawyers end up in large firms with absurdly high (and undeserved) starting salaries. Many have to eke out a living while paying off huge loans and starting families. The pro bono requirement for them is unduly burdensome. Why not base the amount of pro bono hours required on the starting salary? The more you earn, the more you time you have to give. And, while you're at it, nursing home operators and landlords can also donate some of their expertise for free.

8

 Sep 19, 2012 at 02:04 PM Slingsby Says:

Reply to #3  
judith Says:

What about pro bono for doctors and dentists.

Go and live in Britain. Of course the practitioners get paid for their work but not *directly* by their patients who, having contributed to the National Health Scheme, get nearly all their health requirements free at the point of use.

9

 Sep 19, 2012 at 03:07 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

You've obviously not been to a reputable law firm. Most firms today bill time in increments of 1/10 or 1/6 of an hour. Its both unethical or illegal or both to charge one hour time for a one minute matter unless your retainer letter explicity states you will bill in increments of ONE HOUR. I don't know any major law firm that does so.

I guess according to you it's not unethical to charge upwards of $800 or more per hour at the top law firms if you want to get a top lawyer. Justice may be blind, but at those prices, only the wealthy can get more equal justice than somebody with a $300 an hour lawyer.

10

 Sep 19, 2012 at 03:29 PM DisIsTru Says:

Lawyers generally know nothing coming out of law school. Additionally, this is the worst job market for lawyers since the advent of the profession. This seems like a great idea.

11

 Sep 19, 2012 at 03:31 PM marck100 Says:

10,000 new attorneys "each year" !!! Wew ! Now everyone can sue and counter sue anyone in NY and use a different lawyer every time. Is this the future of out economy? Disturbing news.

BTW 50 hours is very little for an attorney, the ones I know do it in an hour.

12

 Sep 19, 2012 at 04:18 PM RachelJD Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

I guess according to you it's not unethical to charge upwards of $800 or more per hour at the top law firms if you want to get a top lawyer. Justice may be blind, but at those prices, only the wealthy can get more equal justice than somebody with a $300 an hour lawyer.

The top law firms tend to have large companies as clients who require complex transactions. But price is not necesarrily a indicator of quality work. I went to court to observe both federal and state cases while in law school and often the frumpy guy in the wrinkled suit solo practicioner, ran rings around the lawyer in the snazzy suit and fancy shoes.

13

 Sep 19, 2012 at 04:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Realitycheck Says:

In case you may not have noticed from the perch of your white shoe firm, not all lawyers end up in large firms with absurdly high (and undeserved) starting salaries. Many have to eke out a living while paying off huge loans and starting families. The pro bono requirement for them is unduly burdensome. Why not base the amount of pro bono hours required on the starting salary? The more you earn, the more you time you have to give. And, while you're at it, nursing home operators and landlords can also donate some of their expertise for free.

No one forced anyone to become a lawyer. That was their own choice. They took out loans because they thought that there was a possibility of making $800 dollars per hour.
Why should everyone else lose because you decided to gamble with your life?

14

 Sep 19, 2012 at 05:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
RachelJD Says:

The top law firms tend to have large companies as clients who require complex transactions. But price is not necesarrily a indicator of quality work. I went to court to observe both federal and state cases while in law school and often the frumpy guy in the wrinkled suit solo practicioner, ran rings around the lawyer in the snazzy suit and fancy shoes.

There are always exceptions to the rule, as is the case in almost all other professions. But generally speaking for a profession where it is claimed to be blind and neutral, don't you think an $800 an hour lawyer is gonna get you more law than a $300 lawyer??

15

 Sep 19, 2012 at 07:58 PM ShmuelG Says:

Isn't forcing people to work for free called slavery in well adjusted societies?

16

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:01 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
ShmuelG Says:

Isn't forcing people to work for free called slavery in well adjusted societies?

I guess for ditch diggers and others like you it would be called "slavery". For most professionals, its part of an obligation to a system of justice in which even those with lesser resources can have equal access to legal protections.

17

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:04 PM sane Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

No one forced anyone to become a lawyer. That was their own choice. They took out loans because they thought that there was a possibility of making $800 dollars per hour.
Why should everyone else lose because you decided to gamble with your life?

You have missed the point. Someone making less and struggling should not be required to do as much pro bono as someone making an absurdly high salary. There is nothing dishonorable or unfortunate about working hard to make ends meet. Unfortunately, you equate that with failure as your priorities are not in order.

18

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:07 PM Solo Says:

Reply to #12  
RachelJD Says:

The top law firms tend to have large companies as clients who require complex transactions. But price is not necesarrily a indicator of quality work. I went to court to observe both federal and state cases while in law school and often the frumpy guy in the wrinkled suit solo practicioner, ran rings around the lawyer in the snazzy suit and fancy shoes.

Ditto. I am a solo practitioner and have had many cases against bug arrogant firms. I was treated with contempt - but I routinely beat them. Stuff I did in a day, they would bill two weeks worth. It's a real sham.

19

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:52 PM esq Says:

Reply to #3  
judith Says:

What about pro bono for doctors and dentists.

And what about pro Bono for whatever u do and what about pro Bono plumbing

20

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:54 PM Esq Says:

Reply to #7  
Realitycheck Says:

In case you may not have noticed from the perch of your white shoe firm, not all lawyers end up in large firms with absurdly high (and undeserved) starting salaries. Many have to eke out a living while paying off huge loans and starting families. The pro bono requirement for them is unduly burdensome. Why not base the amount of pro bono hours required on the starting salary? The more you earn, the more you time you have to give. And, while you're at it, nursing home operators and landlords can also donate some of their expertise for free.

and again I say what about pro bono plumbers architects locksmiths tailors

21

 Sep 19, 2012 at 09:58 PM 5TResident Says:

Reply to #4  
Longwave Says:

Seeing the billing practices that lawyers have today (1 hour minimum for a 1 minute phone call). I can see a lawyer going to Parking violations bureau. He will stand there for 1 hour, giving advice to 50 people for free. Voila! 50 billable hours and he is free for the next year.

A better way is to take his billable SALARY for 50 hours, and donate that amount. And that amount should not be deductable from taxes.

Longwave: I don't know what kind of criminal outfit you worked for but after 22+ years of law practice, I assure you that the minimum billing is 0.1 hours (six minutes), not one hour, and that phone calls that brief are usually not billed for.

22

 Sep 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM Sherree Says:

Reply to #3  
judith Says:

What about pro bono for doctors and dentists.

I agree that ALL NY State licensed professionals should give back and it should be a certain amount of hours or a certain amount of clients per year. Because that would include experienced professionals as well. In addition it would be great if they would organize into neighborhood organization connected to something like Bikkur Cholim or Met Council where people who can't afford their own professionals will be able to be referred to a professional out of a pool of available professionals.

23

 Sep 19, 2012 at 11:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
sane Says:

You have missed the point. Someone making less and struggling should not be required to do as much pro bono as someone making an absurdly high salary. There is nothing dishonorable or unfortunate about working hard to make ends meet. Unfortunately, you equate that with failure as your priorities are not in order.

The point was not missed. A young lawyer makes for example, $20 an hour. 50 hours is $1000 dollars An old lawyer makes $200 an hour, His 50 hours is $10,000. Very equitable and fair.Don't have 50 hours a year? Then stop playing golf on Sundays
If I got injured and my medical bills were $100,000, and the lawyer gets 33 to 40% of that - Who pays the rest of the bills? Greed is greed, 10% is more than enough. Just don't lease a Lexus every year

24

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