Past the Bar
Vesselin Mitev, Esq. is the chief associate for litigation firm John Ray & Associates, with offices in Manhattan and Long Island.
This Week's Topic
Although "lean" has a less favorable connotation in the academic world than in practice, a new report indicating that law schools across the country but especially in New York are in "belt-tightening mode" is actually good news for the profession.
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New York's new rule requiring 50 hours of pro bono service prior to admission to the bar threatens to displace small firm and solo practitioners out of even more areas previously handled by lawyers, albeit for smaller fees.
Removing a minimum on law school student-to-faculty ratios, as an ABA committee has recently proposed be done is a step in the right direction of ensuring that law schools maintain their prime directive - graduating candidates that can pass the bar exam.
In an age where many, many trained lawyers (especially young practitioners) are still looking for work months and years after graduation, allowing non-licensed, untrained advocates into the practice - even if it is limited to certain areas - would further undercut the quality of representation.
Consider, most, if not all practitioners at one lawyer shops and small firms make every effort to work with clients who do not or cannot pay, including cutting down on their bill as a courtesy, or offering discounted retainers.
For all the handwringing it brings about, bill churning is about the most common accusation lawyers hurl at each other. The crux of the problem is not, per se, the model of billing, rather, it's the equivocation of cost, price, and value when discussing legal services in general.