Starting next year, New York will become the first state to require lawyers to perform unpaid work before being licensed to practice, the state’s chief judge announced on Tuesday, describing the rule as a way to help the growing number of people who cannot afford legal service.
The approximately 10,000 lawyers who apply to the New York State Bar each year will have to demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of pro bono work to be admitted, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. He said the move was intended to prove about a half-million hours of badly needed legal services to those with urgent problems, like foreclosure and domestic violence.
I think this announcement makes it important for Judge Lippman and the Court Administration to revise their Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The Court should make explicit the procedure lawyers, especially new lawyers, should follow in representing and dealing with their clients.
As anyone who has read Sidebar recently knows, because of my own legal conundrum I’ve had to research the behavior of not-new lawyers vis-a-vis plaintiffs and have tripped into Bermuda Triangles in both the rules for lawyer conduct to clients, and client conduct to lawyers.
So let’s all write thank-you notes to Judge Lippman, with maybe a P.S. about revising the rules.