But that’s not all. California was so impressed with the new idea that, in addition to a new 50 hour pro bono requirement, every law student in the state of California will soon be required to complete 10 hours of specifically designed continuing education courses. Additionally, there will be a new requirement for 15 credit hours of practical skills or a six month clerkship. They are generously considering letting the law student fulfill the 50 hour requirement while still between the middle of the 2L year through the first year of practice. (I wonder how the first year of practice will be counted if they find themselves without a job for a couple of years? Hmmm.) Their taskforce is still out with a final recommendation forthcoming in June. If you want to comment on their newly unveiled draft, this might be the right time.
Why is there a sudden interest in adding a pro bono requirement to all juris doctorate programs? It’s mostly about the justice gap, money, and looking for inexpensive ways to help the poor gain access to help in the legal process. You see, Legal Services in each state used to get large grants to help them provide legal assistance to the poor. Unfortunately, the tanked economy changed that and they have experienced large budget cuts along with other federal programs. So how do they fill the gap left? Under the guise of teaching law students to love pro bono work, all law students should be required to provide pro bono services. The logic is flawed a bit, however, all that pro bono work will keep many unemployed attorney wanna-be’s in the unemployment line. The poor will receive help from the least experienced (and often, least interested) of all attorneys. Imagine yourself in the place of a woman escaping an abusive marriage whose case is assigned to a new hedge fund attorney who is being forced to help you pro bono - that attorney hasn’t the interest nor the expertise to actually provide you justice. Also, many law students who are struggling to stay afloat just to get through law school will be faced with more hurdles. How long are we expecting these students to starve? They provide hours of free work through the summer intern programs already! How are other states weighing in?
New Jersey: Their pro bono task force is winding up their work in May 2013. They are staying very tight lipped about their recommendation but the New Jersey State Bar Association is opposed to adding a pro bono requirement. They believe the law schools are already doing a good job of preparing their students via real world experience and see this new trend as unnecessary.
Connecticut: Judicial leaders are not impressed with the idea of creating an additional pro bono requirement. They have chosen to work with the individual law schools on issues of getting students more involved in pro bono work.
Other states appear to have taken a wait and see stance – hoping the American Bar Association will step in and resolve the issue. However, the ABA, so far, is saying that is not within their purview.