New York will become the first state in the nation to require pro-bono service as part of admission to the bar, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced today.
“With this initiative, New York will lead the way in stating loudly and clearly that service to others is an indispensable part of our legal training,” Lippman said at an annual Law Day event at the state Court of Appeals.
“Before you can call yourself a lawyer in New York, you must demonstrate in a very tangible way your commitment to the ideals of our great profession.”
Lippman said New York and the nation are facing a crisis in its ability to provide legal services, particularly for those who can’t afford their own lawyers.
The state has about 10,000 prospective lawyers pass the New York Bar Exam each year, Lippman said. With the new program, 500,000 hours of legal services each year will be provided free of charge.
He said the state has increased spending for civil legal services, but the new program will provide pro bono services without costing taxpayers.
“We will not only benefit the clients who are in dire need of legal assistance, but so importantly, we will also be helping prospective lawyers to build the valuable skills and acquire the hands-on experience so crucial to becoming a good lawyer,” Lippman said.
The program will start next year and will not impact applicants seeking to join the bar this year, Lippman said.
When applying to the state courts for admission to the New York bar, applicants will be required to include an affidavit describing the pro bono work.