Lippman Proposes Student Pro Bono Program

, New York Law Journal

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Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, center, receives applause after delivering his State of the Judiciary address at the Court of Appeals in Albany, on Tuesday.
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, center, receives applause after delivering his State of the Judiciary address at the Court of Appeals in Albany, on Tuesday.

Graffeo said law schools would voluntarily participate in the program and said schools would likely take part to help their students.

Albany Law School Dean Penelope Andrews, who attended Lippman's address, said afterward that she was generally supportive of Lippman's plan. She said there could be "challenges" in implementing the program and still making it conform with rules guiding law school curriculum from the American Bar Association.

Andrews said it will be a "powerful incentive" for some students to participate in the pro bono program if they can enter the job market a half year sooner than most of their classmates.

"I am not sure it will be an incentive for all students who have different career paths," she said. "Particularly students who choose to use a law degree to pursue careers in finance or other fields. But I think those committed to public service and the traditional legal service providers, they would find this very exciting."

Carey Dunne, the president of the New York City Bar Association, said his group "applauds" Lippman for the pro bono plan.

"This initiative is consistent with the recommendations in the recent report of the City Bar's Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, which urged that law schools seek to provide 'practice ready' lawyers and that the third year of law school provide practical experience or otherwise better prepare graduates for their legal careers," Dunne said in a statement Tuesday.

Lippman noted that the state Board of Law Examiners has already approved the idea of law students taking the bar exam early in New York, before they graduate.

Prudenti said she has been in contact with the Appellate Division's presiding justices, who have assured her that they will expedite the character and fitness reviews of those who participate in the Pro Bono Scholars program.

Court Procedures

The chief judge also detailed efforts aimed at improving the court system.

Lippman said a pilot program allowing non-lawyers to assist people who are unrepresented in legal matters will begin this month in Housing Court in Brooklyn and in consumer debt cases in Brooklyn and the Bronx (NYLJ, May 13, 2013).

The "navigators" will aid litigants with paperwork, find interpreters where necessary and explain the legal process.

For the first time, the aides will be allowed to stand by litigants during court appearances, Lippman said. Though they won't be allowed to address the court, he said, the aides will be able to answer judges' questions and provide "moral support" to litigants.

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