Starting next year, new members of the New York State Bar will be required to have completed 50 hours of pro bono service. The service can be completed during school, or after passing the bar exam.
With 10,000 new attorneys minted in New York every year, the program would provide 500,000 hours of free legal services, meant to "bridge the gap" in access to justice.
But, as anyone who has ever been or worked with a law student or young lawyer knows, law students and young lawyers are untrained and unknowledgeable. Requiring some practice experience might help get them up to speed, but that's at odds with providing legal service to the poor.
If the idea is to increase the amount of pro bono services offered, the requirement should be that you must show you have provided 50 hours of pro bono services every 5 years. With roughly 160,000 attorneys in the state, this would more than triple the number of pro bono hours offered. What's more, it would greatly increase the quality of those hours. Rather than an inexperienced 2L getting the requirement out of the way, you get an attorney with 5, 10, or 25 years of experience helping you. It would also shift the burden off those least able to bear it.
As it stands, law students are already burdened with classes and the job hunt, recent grads are studying for the bar exam, and once you're in your first job you don't need to be turning down work so that you can fulfill your pro bono requirement.
This new requirement is nothing more than older attorneys patting themselves on the back for providing more pro bono services without actually having to provide the services themselves. What a bunch of dicks.
Young lawyers who want to protest this requirement should consider providing reciprocal legal services to other young lawyers. Young lawyers have plenty of questions about bar admissions and character and fitness review. Get together to talk the things out. After that, get out Turbo Tax and work through your taxes together.