While celebrating Law Day yesterday, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman made a special announcement: Beginning next year, New York will require prospective lawyers to complete mandatory pro bono service.
New York, which is the first state to introduce such a requirement, will mandate that bar applicants complete 50 hours of uncompensated legal work. The new obligation will not only give aspiring lawyers valuable experience, Judge Lippman said, but also it will increase legal representation for the poor by 500,000 hours.
New York lawmakers this year approved $25 million for civil legal services, which is double the funding from last year. But Reuters reports that only 20 percent of the need for civil legal services is currently being met in the state. According to Steven Banks, the attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society of New York, his organization turns away eight out of nine people who approach it for free legal services. The state’s new pro bono mandate “will help us try to bridge that gap,” Banks said yesterday after Lippman’s speech.