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Does Mandatory Pro Bono Work Make Sense?
May 2, 2012
Mandatory pro bono has long been a hot topic among bar associations. Now, according an article in the New York Times, New York has become the first state to require lawyers to perform unpaid work before being licensed to practice. According the article:
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.
Now, I’m a proponent of pro bono services and I feel that I have earned the right to comment as this firm has long done lots of it. But, I have some questions about this requirement:
- Call me an idealist, if you will, but shouldn’t charity come from the heart, rather than being mandatory?
- Given the debt load of many law students, how will they afford to do this?
- Why is the legal profession the only one which requires their members to perform free services. Why aren’t doctors, for example, required to do free services? Doctors earn far more than lawyers and certainly helping to save lives is more important than providing legal services.
- Is this the first step towards mandatory pro bono for all lawyers? That has been proposed in many states (including Wisconsin) but, to knowledge, never adopted.