Mandatory Pro Bono for New York Bar Applicants: Why Not?

The Professional Lawyer (Vol. 21, No. 3, 2012)

7 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2012 Last revised: 8 Mar 2013

See all articles by Benjamin P. Cooper

Benjamin P. Cooper

University of Mississippi School of Law

Date Written: August 8, 2012


The legal profession faces unprecedented challenges including an awful employment market and students graduating with huge debt loads. These are real problems that deserve our energy and attention. New York's new rule requiring applicants to perform fifty hours of pro bono service in order to gain admission to the bar does not. But ever since Chief Judge Lippman announced the plan earlier this year, it has become a lightning rod. Critics have descibed the plan as "indentured servitude" and its architect as "clueless." I argue that the plan is flawed but nevertheless worth supporting because it imposes minimal burdens on the relevant actors while providing three principal benefits. First, it is an effort to address, at least in a small way, our country’s appalling access-to-justice crisis. Second, the new requirement fosters practical training of law students. Third, if lawyers do pro bono work in law school, they may be more likely to do pro bono work as lawyers. Finally, Chief Judge Lippman should be praised for recognizing the new New York rule as a step that the Court of Appeals could take on its own to address the access-to-justice crisis when legislators and the organized bar are done nothing, or worse, thwarting efforts to address the problem.

Keywords: Pro Bono, Professional Responsibility, Legal Ethics, Bar Admission

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Benjamin P., Mandatory Pro Bono for New York Bar Applicants: Why Not? (August 8, 2012). The Professional Lawyer (Vol. 21, No. 3, 2012), Available at SSRN:

Benjamin P. Cooper (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi School of Law ( email )

Lamar Law Center
P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
United States

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