A Bright Future for Law School Pro Bono?

In Bloomberg Law, two proponents of boosting public-service learning opportunities in law school look at where student pro bono may go in the near future, especially in light of New York’s new 50-hour requirement:

Law students have long been key players in important pro bono legal assistance efforts. They engage in a range of access to justice activities―working with mentoring attorneys on pro bono cases, staffing court pro se assistance programs, providing community legal education, and more. But the announcement last spring by the New York Court of Appeals of a 50 hour pro bono requirement for applicants to the New York Bar has brought the role of law student pro bono work into the foreground like never before. What is the role of law student pro bono in addressing the growing justice gap? In providing law students with practical legal skills? In instilling a professional responsibility for pro bono service in new attorneys? The effect of the New York rule―on the focus and structure of existing and developing law school pro bono programs, on law school accreditation standards, and on other state access to justice reform efforts―remains to be seen, but a significant impact seems likely. This article describes current law school pro bono program goals and structures, highlights key elements of the New York pro bono rule, and posits some of the potential implications of this first-of-its kind rule.

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