In May, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced that New York would require applicants for admission to the bar to perform 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted. As I noted at the time, the Chief Judge’s announcement immediately raised of host of questions about what kinds of work would count and when the new requirement would begin to apply.
Today, those questions were answered. The details (including helpful FAQs) are available here. Of most interest to our students, the new rules will not take effect until January 1, 2015, and the definition of “pro bono service” will include much of the good work that our students already do in clinics, externships, internships, and other law school service projects.
When we gathered with the Court of Appeals in Albany earlier this month, Chief Judge Lippman and I each spoke about our shared commitment to service. In the spirit of St. Vincent, service to the poor has always been a part of St. John’s mission. I am happy that the Court of Appeals has now institutionalized that commitment for all aspiring New York lawyers. I am also happy that the newly announced rules allow students to tap into the existing educational infrastructure that we have already built. Through our clinics, externships, internships, and law school service projects, our students will not just “do” pro bono work, but they will also learn about their life-long obligation as members of the legal profession to use their legal training in the service of those who are less fortunate.