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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Law Professor Says Lippman Plan 'Deeply Flawed'

Rethinking Pro Bono
The New York Times  -  OP-ED  -  by Ben Trachtenberg  -  May 13, 2012

The chief judge of New York State, Jonathan Lippman, announced at a Law Day ceremony on May 1 that, starting next year, aspiring lawyers must perform 50 pro bono service hours before joining the state bar. The goal is to provide legal services to needy clients, including those facing eviction, foreclosure and domestic abuse.  Mandatory pro bono work for lawyers is a good idea. But Judge Lippman’s plan is deeply flawed, as it affects only aspiring lawyers who have not yet gained admission to the bar. As a result, the beneficiaries of Judge Lippman’s largess will be served by people unlicensed to practice law — who by definition have no real practice experience. (Though internships and law school clinics are useful training grounds for future lawyers, they are no substitute for the rigors of licensed practice.)  The Lippman plan hurts these budding lawyers most of all. Recent law school graduates face a growing employment crisis: the Law School Transparency Data Clearinghouse lists 67 schools (out of the 185 that were scored) with full-time legal employment rates below 55 percent. At the same time, law school tuition and student debt have skyrocketed. The average 2011 law graduate from Syracuse owes $132,993, not including any debt incurred for undergraduate education. At Pace, the figure is $139,007; at New York Law School, $146,230.  After commencement, things get worse. Law graduates often borrow more money for bar preparation, to pay for both living expenses and prep courses, which can cost more than $3,000. Even graduates with good jobs lined up face tight summer budgets; many work in retail or food service to make ends meet, as do many law students. The irony is that many recent law graduates may well qualify for the free legal services Judge Lippman will bestow on New York’s poor. It is from these struggling New Yorkers that Judge Lippman demands over a week’s unpaid labor.  How might New York better solve the problems Judge Lippman has identified? Any or all of these measures would address the issue: the state might impose a small annual pro bono requirement on all licensed lawyers (pro bono service is now encouraged but voluntary). The state bar could charge additional fees when lawyers reregister every two years, using the proceeds to pay new lawyers to serve the poor, along with hiring experienced lawyers to train and supervise them. Or the state could raise taxes and provide legal services in a manner similar to the provision of public schools, highways and state parks.  If New York is to begin a free legal-services program, the burden should be shared fairly, either by all lawyers or by taxpayers generally. The state should also ensure that participants perform quality work. Judge Lippman’s plan does neither. It forces law students and recent graduates — many of whom have a negative net worth — to provide services they are neither qualified nor in a financial position to perform.  Ben Trachtenberg is an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri.


Anonymous said...

Of course Lippman's plan is DEEPLY FLAWED. That's what Lippman does.....

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor: Lippman is diabolical and you are idealistic. Lippman is the rock to your scissors. The legal services offered by the students, even if they were meritorious, would only be dismissed by the venal NY judges serving under Lippman with the excuse that they were presented by neophytes. Lippman knows this will further entrench the judicial corruption with another layer of protection. NY judges could do the right thing, whether or not it is presented by a crony lawyer, but they do not. NY courts do not operate under law, but under crony whimsical judges and corrupt appellate courts. You, Professor, are only diverting attention from the root cause of improper judicial decisions: venality, corruption, cronyism and no effective method of remedy for the honest.

Searching For Rule Of Law In America said...

as i said in a comment i posted yesterday (which has somehow gotten lost in the ether)...

Lippman's proposal here shows his pure diabolical genius...

a brand new lawyer right outta law school... who better to control and use...

--Michael A. Hense is Searching For Rule Of Law In America.

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