Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Clueless baby boomer judge orders poor lawyers to subsidize rich ones

That's one functional economic effect of New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's announcement yesterday that New York will become the first state to require bar applicants to donate 50 hours of legal services before they can be admitted.  Lippman's initiative is so utterly wrongheaded on so many levels that it's tempting to reply to it with exasperated silence than to even begin to point out why.  But for the public good:

(1) This kind of thing is the Platonic form of limousine liberal idiocy. Memo to Chief Judge Lippman: not having a lawyer is approximately item #714 on the list of what the average poor person in New York would spend money on if that person had extra money to spend.  Here's a thought experiment: Give 100 poor New York families $10,000 cash each.  How much of that one million dollar bounty is going to get spent on legal services? Practically nothing, that's how much.

You have to be pretty rich in this country before you start thinking of legal services as necessities rather than luxuries. Another thought experiment: how much money have you, dear reader, ever spent on legal services? If you are broadly speaking middle class the answer is more probably than not "nothing."  This is why lawyers who don't work for rich people or corporations or the government are slowly or not so slowly going broke: because ordinary people, let alone poor ones, generally don't employ professional legal services except in very limited circumstances (some but not most divorces, bankruptcies, arrests for minor but not too minor crimes. principally DUI).

If the people who control entry into the New York bar are so concerned about helping poor people, it would be far better to simply require members of the bar to give poor people money, rather than offering them free legal services, which most poor people at most times will find, in comparison to various far more pressing needs -- food, shelter, clothes, transportation, medical care etc. -- about as useful as an annotated copy of Finnegans Wake. (This isn't meant to deny that some poor people will sometimes be in desperate need of legal representation, but rather to emphasize the problems of the poor are largely a function of not having money, rather than of not having access to the legal process. For example, people are usually evicted from their homes because they can't pay the rent, not because their legal rights are being violated, since in this country you have no legal right not to be forced to live on the street).

(2) Speaking of which, while I personally am very much in favor of forcing rich people to transfer wealth to poor people, I'm strongly against using professional licensing requirements to enforce my or anybody else's political desires, which is exactly what the learned judge is doing:  

"If you want the privilege and honor of practicing law in New York, you're going to have to demonstrate that you're committed to our values," Lippman said.

"Committed to our values" in this context means "being forced by the power of the state to participate in Jonathan Lippman's pet political project if you want to be a lawyer in the jurisdiction entry into which he controls."  I could go on a rant here about how one of the unconscious ideological functions of legal education is to produce people who can say things like this without realizing that, in this context, "law" is completely indistinguishable from "politics," but as the kids say these days, whatever.

(3) As for kids these days, Jonathan Lippman paid about $10,000 per year in tuition in current inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars to attend NYU's law school in the late 1960s.  He has spent his entire professional career as a functionary within New York's court system. I'm betting a Megamillions ticket that he doesn't have the faintest idea how preposterous it is, under current circumstances, to expect aspiring lawyers to work for free as a precondition for bar admittance in New York of all places.

Consider that these conditions include that nearly 10,000 people were admitted to the New York bar last year, while according to state and federal calculations the state will produce 1,700 jobs for lawyers each year over the next decade, via net replacement and growth combined.  What this means of course is that the large majority of people admitted to the New York bar aren't going to get jobs as lawyers in New York. I imagine it would also come as quite a surprise to the learned judge to be informed that most people taking the New York bar have very negative net worth, enormous educational debts (graduates of 13 New York law schools had average law school debts of more than $120,000 in 2011), and income streams -- if any -- that are far too small to service their debt obligations which means that . . . wait for it . . . they couldn't possibly afford to pay for legal services, making them ideal candidates to receive pro bono legal representation (it's like rain on your wedding day).

(4) Exactly how is this requirement supposed to be discharged? Another piece of information that Chief Judge Lippman seems to be overlooking is that people who graduate from law school don't know how to practice law (this is why they can't purport to legally render legal services unless they're being supervised by an individual attorney or a legal organization).  Medical schools train future surgeons by having them work on corpses, but apparently we're supposed to "train" nascent lawyers by handing them the legal problems of living, breathing people, the idea here being the dubious proposition that law students and new graduates will do more good than harm to the wretched refuse of our teeming shores if we entrust these proto-lawyers with the legal affairs of people currently slated to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

(5) Where are these aspirants to the New York bar supposed to find attorneys who will supervise their fledgling attempts at rendering legal services? By a remarkable coincidence this new barrier to entry will be only a minor inconvenience to people who at least for now are at the top of the legal heap -- Columbia Law School already requires its students to do 40 hours of pro bono work as a prerequisite for graduation; people who get associate gigs with large firms should have relatively little trouble fulfilling the requirement since its far easier for large firms to take on, assign, and supervise pro bono matters than it is for ordinary lawyers, etc. (Needless to say New York's other law schools will no doubt spring into action, devising yet one more hoop that their soon to be under or unemployed graduates will have to jump through before paying their bar admission fees.).

In short, this requirement will burden attorneys and aspiring lawyers in New York in pretty much precisely inverse relation to their social and economic status: High status lawyers will have to do nothing they're not doing already, lower-status lawyers are going to be pestered to "supervise" people who have no idea what they're doing, high-status law students will find this to be just another in a series of endless aggravations, and low status law students will find that in at least some cases it will serve as a significant barrier to entry. Indeed the latter outcome is what "some" might suspect functions as the unconscious economic basis lurking beneath the ideological superstructure of the judge's clueless bloviations.


  1. LP serving skewered Lippman for breakfast.

    Pitch perfect.

  2. This entire profession should be tossed out and rebuilt from the bottom up. It has become so shamefully rotten that it now causes so much more harm than good. The legal profession and lawyers should be treated like cigarettes; a toxic product that needs extraordinary outside regulation and public warnings.

  3. Not to mention the logistical challenges: if a would-be attorney finishes her fifty hours of service in a single week, as the judge suggests is possible, who's then going to follow up on those divorce proceedings, bankruptcy filings, etc.?

  4. On the bright side, perhaps this will show some lemmings that this "profession" is not worth entering.

  5. I like the point:

    "If you are broadly speaking middle class the answer is more probably than not "nothing." This is why lawyers who don't work for rich people or corporations or the government are slowly or not so slowly going broke: because ordinary people, let alone poor ones, generally don't employ professional legal services except in very limited circumstances (some but not most divorces, bankruptcies, arrests for minor but not too minor crimes. principally DUI)"

    A decade or more ago I was working on a JV for big Asian tech company with a much smaller company. We did a background check on the CEO of the US partner and found that he had in the last few years filed no less than 27 lawsuits - the Asians asked us - "but isn't that what all Americans do?"

    "uh no - if you took every lawyer in this conference room we probably all have personally no more than 3 lawsuits in our lifetimes - hand up 3 (none), 2 (one-hand and 'they were only small and dismissed'), 1 (one hand), none (five hands)"

    The potential business partner's lawyer was asked about the cases and he awkwardly answer that a few were in the ethnic religious community the guy was in - but it was also clear that a lot were against business partners, some related, most not and some with relations.

    The client was told that looking at the cases - "if you get into business with this guy he will sue you - that is what he does."

    The deal died...

  6. Come to think of it the surveyed group was two lawyers and a few US managers and sales guys

    1. The fledgling lawyers could represent each other in lawsuits against their schools.

  7. It's also unneeded competition for attorneys who eke out a living serving the poor.

  8. 50 hours of pro bono? A small price to pay for the prestige, honor and privelege of putting Esq. after your name.

  9. Campos,

    You're a demigod among men, but give this entry one more proofread. There are a few egregious typos and awkward turns of phrase that are generally absent in your writings.

  10. Here is another complication. In every pro-bono case I have handled there have been expenses. In my last one which probably chewed up 15-20 hours of my life I was out of pocket $120 for subpeonas and medical record copying costs. And I have the experience to choose my pro-bono cases so that the probability is that I will not have thousands of dollars in expenses.

    What happens when some of these baby lawyers start taking cases where large expenses crop up. Example, you are defending a child who needs a court appointed psychiatric examination. Because the child is not a client of the public defender, the state is not paying this expense. The family does not have the money. So the baby attorney will either have to subsidize the cost or have to endure the wrath of the Judge for not getting his client a needed service. Yes, the judge should order the state to pay the expense but we do not live in a land of uniformally reasonable judges.

    There are literally hundreds of such potential expense boobytraps for our poorly supervised baby lawyers to dodge.

  11. sorry, court ordered psychiatric examination

  12. Apparently, the fifty hours can be done while the student is in school. Why is that a grave problem? In looking at it, the expectation is that this will be done in law school.

  13. Of course we want new lawyers to share the values of the esteemed and learned judge and other members of the New York bar. So naturally I looked up what the pro bono requirement is for ACTUAL MEMBERS of the new York bar, and Rule 6.1 of the Professional Standards for Attorneys shows that "lawyers are strongly encouraged ... To ... Provide at least 20 hours of pro bono legal services each year."

    Is it just me, or should a rule like this be modified to reflect the values of the New York Bar as well by requiring members of the bar to do pro bono work?

  14. While most of this is good stuff - " legal services, which most poor people at most times will find... about as useful as an annotated copy of Finnegans Wake" is just not true. As a legal aid lawyer I can tell you that demand overwhelming outstrips our resources. We constantly have to turn away people with legitimate legal issues who need help navigating the legal system and who cannot afford a lawyer. People who are losing their houses because their banks are wrongly denying them modifications... elderly people whose social security is being wrongly garnished... evictions from public housing... people trying to escape domestic violence. The list goes on and on.

    I don't think NY's program necessarily is a good one, but to claim that most poor people don't need legal aid, or are getting their needs met, is ludicrous.

  15. @ 8:50-- I couldn't believe he actually wrote that. Of course poor people need lawyers. That they need other things does change that. Lippmann can't order the redistribution of wealth in NY State, but he does have some control over what lawyers do. As for middle class people, many of them don't use lawyers, not because they don't need them, but because they cannot afford them.

  16. Like the state's current CLE requirement, I assume this requirement will pretty quickly become a joke. Eventually, it will be worked into local law school programs and students will "fulfill" the requirement by spending a few hours doing intake or sitting in on cases at legal services offices. I also assume that schools will seek to have their clinical programs count toward the 50 hours for the handful of students who are able to take them. None of this is bad stuff, but it is ludicrous to think it's going to meaningfully expand legal representation for the indigent.

    A more interesting question is how folks seeking admission in the next couple of years or out-of-state applicants will fulfill the requirement where they have not had the benefit of having it built into their law school experience. How, for example, is a lone law grad supposed to represent some poor person pro bono in court when it's literally a crime to do so? Who is going to supervise him or her when, in all likelihood, he or she doesn't know the difference between a motion and pleading or even the address of the court house, let along the substantive law?

    Lippman has clearly failed to think this through.

  17. 8:37: I've volunteered part time (15 hrs per week) at two public interest organizations. I've done much more than 50 hours of pro bono during my three years in law school. And I'm perplexed by this requirement- I agree with lawprof that the judge obviously did not think this one through.

    I wonder whether it will even be possible for all law students to complete this requirement during the school year. Many public interest organizations turn students away from unpaid internships because they don't have the office or logistical capacity to accommodate bodies - one well-regarded public interest office I worked for literally didn't have a place for some interns to sit. They also don't have the supervisory capacity. At the other organization I worked for, a high-profile state level government office, my boss has told me that he gets hundreds of applications for volunteer attorney positions from experienced attorneys but cannot hire more than 1 or 2 simply because he can't supervise that many people and still do his own work. And he can't hand a lot of his work off to part-time interns because they are law students who don't know how to do anything and the work requires more than a 15/hr a week commitment. A single brief can take longer than 50 hours.

    Additionally, I wonder exactly what these students are going to be learning. I assume the 50 hours will be broken down into 10/hrs a week for five weeks at the beginning of a semester. That's barely enough to get acclimated to a job, never mind learn any kind of skills or really know anything about the practice. It took me at least until the end of the semester to really get to know my way around either of my part-time internships. Even then I was given scut work until the very end simply because I was not around enough to be given any assignments of real responsibility or that required training. I put in about 200/hrs a semester at both places. I can only imagine what kind of work someone with a 50/hr commitment will be doing. Probably reorganizing files or other administrative tasks.

    One thing I've learned is that law is a learn as you go profession. So if students are taking bankruptcy, unemployment, divorce cases as part of pro bono projects like Unemployment Action Center, it is going to be some time before they get acclimated to the work enough to be an effective advocate. Before that point, 50 hrs will be up and it is back to outlining. Only people who are truly committed to pro bono projects stick with it enough to become effective advocates through trial and error. Sticking a bunch of people who obviously don't want to be there (because there are more than enough opportunities to get involved already) is not going to help clients.

    I get what the judge was trying to do. He can't allocate more money to legal aid. This is an easy way to assuage his conscience. But it is not a very practical one.

  18. 9:02: Lippmann is ordering the redistribution of wealth in NY, he's just doing it in a profoundly inefficient way. If the state bar required every licensed lawyer in NY to pay $250 per year into a fund for legal services, that would double the money the state is currently providing for such services. That would do poor people vastly more good than requiring a bunch of kids that don't know what they're doing to engage in 50 hours of what in most cases will end up being largely useless legal services.

    Obviously poor people need lawyers, but most of the time they need other things much more. And when they do need lawyers it's almost always because they don't have money in the first place.

  19. I will add that having known people who are not at all interested in pro bono try to meet the school's mandatory requirements the whole thing becomes a charade. They inflate hours and don't give two shits about the clients. Law school offers you enough opportunity to do pro bono through clinics, internships, etc, but many people choose to take theoretical classes and spend their time frittering away about the Constitution and Law and Literature. These people are unlikely to be effective advocates.

  20. Its a required unpaid internship for lawyers...

    Seems about right considering the way undergrad edu is going...

    I had to do an unpaid internship (actually it was a paid internship- i still had to pay the university tuition in order to complete the internship) to break into my field.

    Join the fun.


    On a side note though it is the perfect tool for limiting those admitted to the bar.

    Its not enough to just pass the test now.

  21. Look at 9:10 going on and on… the requirement is clearly just another politically motivated hurdle to limit those accepted to the bar.

  22. Bored3L I'm surprised that CLS allows clinical classes to count toward the pro bono requirement if that's in fact the case. I don't see how getting academic credit for doing work is different in kind from getting paid for it.

  23. Very useful to non-profits actually. Ask anyone that has worked at a legal services organization and they can definitely find 50 hours of work for someone to do. For example, intake and initial consultations (gathering info, not providing advice) can be a huge time suck and it would be great to have a volunteer ask the basic and routine questions while dealing with some of the rants these clients have. Serving subpoenas, closing cases, drafting closing letters etc. would also be very useful.

  24. Lawprof, CLS doesn't allow clinical work to count towards pro bono if you are getting credit even if you are working many hours per week- I have a number of friends who fell victim to that assumption. I did my internships for no credit or pay. There are a number of pro bono "projects" like the Unemployment Action Center that people can use to get their pro bono. There are also spring break caravans where you go do legal work in another state for 40 hours during spring break.

  25. 9:02 here, if this can be done while people are in law school, indeed the expectation is that it will be done there, I do not see the reason for the outrage. The student could work in an organization that would give him or her a chance to make contacts and to see what the field is like. Everyone here is complaining about the lack of exposure to the "real world" of lawyering. This could be another step in the right direction. I have had students who finished the first year in law school work for me doing research legal and some interviews of clients. When resources are scarce, every bit of help counts.

    If you think making every one pay S250 into Legal Services is a good idea, that can be done, too It's not either/or. There are probably lots of other things people can think of to do. That doesn't mean this step should not be taken.

  26. 9:28 You can find individual work for one student to do. Whether they can handle the influx of every student in New York state (the NYC area has about a dozen law schools) trying to complete their pro bono requirement is another matter.

  27. I agree with you. I am outraged by this requirement. New lawyers have been dumped on enough - this isn't right.

  28. $250-- wrong key

  29. T14 graduates should be exempt from this requirement.

  30. "Ask anyone that has worked at a legal services organization and they can definitely find 50 hours of work for someone to do. For example, intake and initial consultations (gathering info, not providing advice) can be a huge time suck and it would be great to have a volunteer ask the basic and routine questions while dealing with some of the rants these clients have. Serving subpoenas, closing cases, drafting closing letters etc. would also be very useful."

    These should be entry level jobs...

  31. 50 hours of a new JD or law student's time means that an actual public interest lawyer will have to spend probably 50+ hours supervising work that such a more experienced lawyer could have done in maybe 3-5 hours. As a way of generating legal services for the poor this is extremely counterproductive.

    If the judge wanted it to work what he should do is put the 50 hour requirement at the 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th anniversary of a NY lawyers date of admission.

  32. And continuing... there are lots of things people aren't interested in while they are in law school. i had no particular interest in Commercial Transactions or Accounting. But I took the courses. It's not just about what you are the most interested in.

  33. 9:21: It's politically motivated, but not to put up barriers of entry. It's just another example of a limousine liberal attempting to address policy concerns by shifting the burden onto people with no power.

  34. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  35. "Ask anyone that has worked at a legal services organization and they can definitely find 50 hours of work for someone to do."

    Yeah right. Try calling up a legal services organization and offering to volunteer for 50 hours. See how far you get.

  36. Whoa, that's pretty offensive language. Let's just call them clueless douchebags.

  37. "If the judge wanted it to work what he should do is put the 50 hour requirement at the 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th anniversary of a NY lawyers date of admission."

    I agree, but practicing attorneys have a lot more power in the system.

  38. This is the single most ignorant piece I have ever read about the legal needs of poor people.

  39. @9:01, No. Poor people really don't need lawyers, except, as Campos made clear, in extremely limited circumstances. Read "Practicing Law for Poor People" by Stephen Wexler (Yale LJ, Vol 79: 1049, 1970).

  40. LawProf,

    I think everyone is going overboard on this, particularly given the specifics of the proposal haven't been released (my comment don't apply to your commentators alone, but others, including angry academics who have been quoted in various stories about this).

    The Judge's actual comments (found here: make clear that he expects that almost all students will complete the requirement while still in law school. He also specifically states that involvement in a clinic would count.

    As a not infrequent reader of this site, isn't one of the chief beefs that law students don't actually learn how to practice law? Isn't it therefore a good thing that law schools will have to expand clinical offerings or hire more faculty members who can supervise pro bono projects?

    I agree that this proposal does smack somewhat of Boomer Cluelessness, but Judge Lippman and his colleagues on the bench (all of whom apparently favor the proposal) likely have a decent sense of the havoc that folks being unable to afford representation is causing to the State's judicial system. Ideally the requirement would extend to all lawyers, but I'm not sure the perfect should be the enemy of the good in this case.

  41. ""Ask anyone that has worked at a legal services organization and they can definitely find 50 hours of work for someone to do."

    Yeah right. Try calling up a legal services organization and offering to volunteer for 50 hours. See how far you get."

    This. Last summer I wanted to volunteer at a poverty clinic. I went to 4 before someone finally let me give my services away for free, and it was only because I happened to see a young guy there that I knew. The others all complained about their lack of funding and resources but at the same time refused to let me lend a hand.

  42. All of your points are valid and I'm a big fan of your blog but there is one aspect of your post I disagree with as someone who worked as a legal aid staff attorney for years. That is the assertion that just because poor people wouldn't spend discretionary income (if it were given to them) on legal services means they don't actually need such services.

    I'm sure that many of the uninsured skip regular medical checkups and if given cash to get them, they would probably buy something else they want or have deluded themselves into thinking they need more. As someone who worked in legal aid I cannot count the number of times I saw people buying flat screen TVs and then missing rent and ending up with no home to put the fancy TV into. They would make uncountable numbers of other poor choices as well, such as violating no-pet clauses in leases or allowing unauthorized roommates to move in which would inevitably land them in eviction court. As loathe as I am to say something that might sound less than liberal, poor people are in fact often poor in large part because they make poor choices.

    Where I differ from the conservatives though is that I think people, much like scammed law students, are not always responsible for their poor choices if they were misinformed, deprived of educational opportunity, raised in an environment that gave them no chance to learn good life/budgeting skills/etc. This is a demographic that is heavily marketed to by payday lenders, title loan companies, for-profit cosmetology schools, etc. They are raised with no role models and their lives are miserable. One cannot begrudge them for wanting a little bit of joy from a TV or a pet, things so many of us take for granted. The problem is that these poor choices often end up with severe consequences for a poor person and can leave them actually facing homelessness, whereas a middle class person can bounce back in a few months from a poorly-thought out impulse purchase. THAT is why the a middle class person can commit the same mistake as a poor person and the poor person will need a lawyer while the middle class one will not. And by the way, about 80% of the time, what these people need is advice. They can often be coached to handle their own court affairs or avoid them entirely, so it is possible to help meaningfully with a limited number of hours.

    Bottom line: The poor DO need legal aid, the fact that they would spend excess cash on other things notwithstanding. But this pro bono requirement is the wrong way to go about it for all the reasons you describe and one additional one: What about out-of-staters? This could be seen as a de facto residency requirement (clearly unconstitutional) if the service has to be performed in New York.

  43. 10:36 here again, adding to my post in light of what 10:32 said. Yes, another reason this requirement is dumb is that newbie lawyers and lawyers-in-waiting are pretty useless to legal aid, since they can't even legally give advice without supervision. Even experienced lawyers are pretty useless to legal aid if they know nothing about "regular people" law and have been doing M&A for the last decade. I don't think there is a solution except to say that pro bono is and always needs to be 100% voluntary. Sure, law schools should beef up their clinics to help ensure grads have more practical experience. Perhaps such clinical rotations should replace the 3L year. But the ABA needs to address that in accreditation standards; it is not a mantle the bar authorities should be taking up.

  44. @10:26 Yes, it is. And it isn't even original.

  45. OMG, so much whining over such a small amount of time. Give me a break, 50 hours. Everyone complains that new attorneys don't know how to practice law, now a small requirement of practical experience is the end of the world. I'm sure law schools could build it in with no problem. Golly, an hour a week for a year, and the sky is falling??

  46. 11:01's post rasies an interesting issue. If the public interest organizations do not have the logisical or supervisory capability to support all these law students trying to get 50 hours, and law schools have to "build it in," tuition is going to go up.

    I also wonder how they will define pro bono. Will a private firm serving small time clients be able to get free law student help?

  47. Mack,
    I completely disagree. Maybe in the complex practice you're in that's true, however there are a lot of uses for newbie's in less complex areas that legal services performs. A lot of it is probably menial tasks as I described above, but that's the trade off. Also, most of the legal services attorneys I've encountered are happy to bring volunteers along to observe at court so there can be some value to the student too.


  48. @11:01 the problem isn't the number of hours, but where to get them. If you aren't licensed yet, you cannot provide legal services without supervision by a licensed attorney. Of course law schools could build it in, but they will undoubtedly pass the cost on to the students who are already graduating without jobs and with six figures of debt.

    Also, you ignore the fact that not everyone who takes the bar is a new, local grad. People may have practiced in other states or gone to law school elsewhere. Their school will likely not have built it in and even if it did it might not count under whatever standard NY will use. If you've already graduated and need to find a way to meet this requirement, you can't unless you have a connection to someone who can supervise you.

    It can lead to quite the catch 22. Can't get the law license without volunteering, can't volunteer without the license.

  49. 11:14,
    Walk down to the landlord tenant court. Wait for the legal services attorney to note their appearance on the record. Walk up to them afterwards and ask them if they need help serving process, performing intake, etc. Most will say yes.

  50. I live in a jurisdiction where pro bono is mandatory if a judge taps you on the shoulder. 80 hours of pro bono is the requirement. After my clerkship, I was tapped on the shoulder. I represented a guy who was guilty as sin in a criminal matter. The charge was aggravated assault. Let me tell you how this pro bono experience turned out. The guy called me 40 times collect in one day. Guess who has to pay for those collect calls? Hint: It's not the State. When I didn't return his call during a 20 hour span (because my mother had to be taken to the hospital), he filed a bar complaint. When he filed the bar complaint, I tried to file a motion to withdraw on the basis that there was a conflict of interest. The MOTHERFUCKING JUDGE (who is dead and I hope all the maggots feasted on that fucker's corpse) refused my motion and sanctioned me with a monetary fine for bringing the motion, which was legit. In the end, I got the client a great plea deal. No jail time, just probation. Well guess what, the "innocent" client told me he wasn't signing onto no "fucking plea deal" so we went to trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years. He threatened to kill me and my family when he got out. He got out in 10 months and came to my office. I called the police on him and he disappeared. This happened 12 years ago. Not a day goes by where I don't look behind my shoulder and fear that this fucker will shank me. That was my pro bono story. It is a thankless job and it will cause you stress and sleepless nights. Believe me, I should know.

  51. a less offensive proposal would be to require pro bono service of everyone who has their license ten years or more and going forward its necessary to get your pro bono in before you renew for tenth year.

    however, even that i find offensive.

  52. @9:28

    I'm always willing to be corrected - it's the only way to learn

  53. Nevada tried this in 1994. It didn't go for

    See this note written by a Loyola LA student entitled "An Ethical Evaluation of Mandatory Pro Bono" discussing the Nevada situation

    (BTW, Loyola touts itself as one of the first schools to have a mandatory pro bono requirement for students in order to graduate as if it's a good thing to pimp out your students to do menial work when the folks best suited to do real meaningful pro bon work, the faculty, have no such requirement and at Loyola, are generally mediocre in every sense). What a dump.

  54. Here is my pro bono story. Or maybe I should call it pro boner?

    While clerking at the Public Defender's office, I welcomed a scruffy looking man in his 40s into the office. He looked like a truck stop serial rapist with his foam dome and pot belly protruding under his flannel shirt. Since it was my second week, I did not know any better, and shook the runt's hand. Anyone want to hazard a guess at to what this crap law client had for a charge? Masturbating on a bench while waiting at the bus mall - a mere 3 hours earlier. I said that I needed to grab a notepad as an excuse and ran to the bathroom. I put the hotwater on full blast and finished half the soap dispenser. My fingers have less sensation because the scalding water probably killed all my nerves.

    Lemmings, don't think for a second that as a criminal attorney you'll deal with lofty Consitutional issues or expose police misconduct. Illegal searches, Miranda violations, etc. almost never happen. As someone mentioned earlier, crap law clients are so mentally stunted that they are on a 4th grade comprehension level. Take the public masturbator for example. He pulled out his deal in plain day light in front of dozens of people. No need to get a warrant! With the whole event caught on security tape, there was no need to call witnesses either. Just human sewage to be processed by the system.

  55. 12:00: Most law students don't have the foggiest idea how to do either of those things.

  56. 12:41,
    You've got to be kidding. They don't know how to walk up to someone and give them a piece of paper? They can't recite pre-scripted questions on the phone and jot down the client's answers?
    12:00 / 9:28

  57. The point is that they could learn. People on this site spend lots of time saying people do not learn anything in law school. When it is proposed that they work with lawyers, then the same people wail, "But they don't know how to do that!"

  58. 12:45: The question is whether a busy legal aid lawyer will want to teach them and supervise them. In my experience interning for two public interest organizations, they do not want for lack of volunteers. But the busy lawyers doing real legal work do not have the time to oversee more than a few interns per office. This requirement would flood those organizations with people they simply can't absorb.

  59. @12:08 that is hilarious but also very awful, i'm sorry - you folks should check this website out; it's free online courses for anyone around the world from top american universities. i just signed up for game theory and greek and roman mythology. i don't see why law courses shouldn't end up on there (i mean, once the industry concedes that it has crumbled)

    i'm about to finish my 1L at the university of oregon; an interesting experience, but i think i'll go back to the lowly waged service industry and take these free courses online from better universities from now on... 53% employment, apparently. and tuition goes up. i can't believe this shit...

  60. 12:51,
    Very minimal supervision is needed with regard to gathering the information I need from clients to make an assessment regarding their case in a landlord tenant matter. The questions are scripted and obvious. The value the law student delivers is allowing me to save time from having to deal with the insane rants from housing clients.

  61. @Bored3L Things will have to change in order to make this work, no doubt. But they can change. And legal aid offices are not the only vehicle for pro bono work. Jeez everything has to be pronounced worthless.

  62. "If the judge wanted it to work what he should do is put the 50 hour requirement at the 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th anniversary of a NY lawyers date of admission."

    No, bad idea. I am going on my 10th year and I am just as clueless as a 1st year as to how to practice law. Not only that, but I am very jaded and disgruntled. There are literally thousands of people just like me out there. I have been clicking on a mouse in the document review
    dungeons and once my loans are paid off in 3 years, I am out. Good bye, scam. It was fun. Starting life over at 40 should be interesting.

  63. If this were part of some greater goal to train lawyers, I would have less of a problem with it.

    As it is, it is complete b.s.

    When I say training, I mean an example like this:

    The state of New York offers a certification program where lawyers can use the fact they have worked and gained experience in a certain area of law to draw in clients by saying they are board certified.

    A board certified real estate attorney
    A board certified bankruptcy attorney
    A board certified new york commercial contracts or litigation attorney

    Something they can hold out to the public as a means to compete based on proven work

    That would make sense.

    Because the new lawyers would be getting something of value

  64. it goes without saying that such an approach would require the state to take some money to market certification as important so the public can want a certified attorney

  65. Lippman is an asshole. Wake up! It's not 1925. The profession is not full of white male privileged and wealthy individuals anymore.

    When my mechanic and electrician do pro bono for me, maybe I will consider it!

  66. What's next? You need to donate a kidney for the privelege of being a lawyer? How about 10% of your wages? Or how about your first born?

    The practice of law is getting worse. First it was the state bar STEALING your clients' interest money sitting in your IOLTA accounts. Then it was paying into the client protection fund (which compensates clients for the sins of your brethren). Then it was expensive mandatory CLE which is designed to rake in money for the state and the providers while taking your time and money away. Now this. I mean why don't they just stop giving out law licenses. This is fucking ridiculous.

  67. public interest lawyers don't need warm bodies. THey need people being directed to do something useful for clients who lack resources. This requires more than just throwing hours. It requires planning.

  68. Law schools need to start offering classes on how to handle DUI cases, get a plea deal for certain crimes (like possession or larceny) traffic tickets, evictions from apartments, and how to counsel a client for a hour or two on how said client can navigate a small claims court.

    But instead, there are all sorts of "law and..." classes.

    I personally have never handled a merger and acquisition, nor a constitutional issue, nor anything else that I learned in law school.

    In contracts I and II, we never even practiced how to write a simple contract.

    My brother in law took MBA classes. Part of the class was a two week trip to Asia to see how theory worked in practice. Seems to me, law schools could at the very least opt for a field trip to a court house as part of a a civil procedure class. That seems like a no brainer to me.

    That's my two cents.

  69. 1:09 That has not been my experience doing intakes in two organizations 1) special education services, 2) post-conviction prisoner claims. As a law student with little prior knowledge of either the likely claims or the situations the client found himself in (from substandard medical care in prison to a child with high-functioning autism and mother who never graduated high school) I was wholly unprepared to take interviews without supervision even with my handy sheet of prepared question. One client was a paranoid schizophrenic with a 7th grade education- had my supervisor with 30 years of experience not been there the interview would have lasted maybe 30 minutes and I would have gotten little relevant information.

    Letting an inexperienced law student sort through a client's ranting might not be the best thing, as the law student will miss the opportunity to focus the client on certain statements and press them with pertinent questions and will probably miss key factoids. Service they can do- but depending on the organization and clients served intakes might not be the best idea.

    1:13: Aye, things will change- but will the change for the better? Will New York law schools have to start up expensive pro bono projects to get students those hours leading to a tuition hike? Will private firms doing small time work for individual lower or middle income clients be able to use these students as free labor? What about all the law students from places beyond New York? To me this seems a lot of work for very little payoff.

  70. "First, it would address the large unmet need for lawyers to represent the poor. It also would inculcate in aspiring lawyers a career-long duty to serve the public."
    "I imagine it would also come as quite a surprise to the learned judge to be informed that most people taking the New York bar have very negative net worth, enormous educational debts (graduates of 13 New York law schools had average law school debts of more than $120,000 in 2011), and income streams -- if any -- that are far too small to service their debt obligations which means that . . . wait for it . . . they couldn't possibly afford to pay for legal services,...."

    This pisses me off. It's a BIG pet peeve of mine.

    Older lawyers talk about giving back and helping the poor yet they refuse to give back and mentor/offer jobs to new attorneys.

    The attitude is that "those people" need help, not JD-holders. I wrote about this a few months ago. See the post on here "the least of these."

    New lawyers need to fight back and remind the bar that we are in need of help and should not be overlooked just because we have a JD! A JD doesn't mean anything if you have older attorneys who think that you can afford to sacrifice income and pay bar dues when no one wants to hire you.

    The comments about giving back should be directed at older attorneys. It seems that they need to remember that "charity begins at home" (in this case help out the members of the bar who need the help first) and do your best to mentor and offer jobs to those who need the work.

  71. Walk down to the landlord tenant court. Wait for the legal services attorney to note their appearance on the record. Walk up to them afterwards and ask them if they need help serving process, performing intake, etc. Most will say yes.

    MAY 2, 2012 12:00 PM

    Is that real legal work? Why foist that type of work on those least able to protest against it?

    You don't need a law degree and legal training to do the type of work you are pointing to. That's offensive.

    It's just free grunt level work. If this were to be implemented it should benefit the new attorneys or soon to be admitted attorneys. I worked for the college newspaper. I know how to interview and do intakes. I was also a Paralegal before law school.

    Serving process is something anyone can do. We need to come up with a system that requires and confers real legal skills, not busy work that can be done by any trained chimp.

  72. 9:43 What really is the point of using this blog to call people"f*****s". An oscenity can be used to give an exclamation point to a point that you want to make. But this comment has no point. Even if it did it would be obscured by your choice of words. The blog administrator should delete this post. William Ockham

  73. obscenity William Ockham

  74. 2:36,
    Good for you. Guess what, public interest lawyers do a lot of grunt work. This new rule isn't designed to benefit you.

  75. I agree with LawProf and others that this is a ridiculous proposal. It's shameful that existing members of the bar want to impose pro bono obligations on aspiring lawyers when they don't impose the same requirement on themselves.

    There may be some legal services offices that would benefit from this proposal but, based on my experience, I think most will find it a burden--or just won't participate. I co-teach a criminal defense clinic in which we teach 3Ls to represent indigent clients charged with misdemeanors. These are students eager to learn the work, not "volunteers" filling a mandatory requirement, and it takes *a lot* of training and effort for us to get them up to speed. I cannot imagine any way in which we could use drop-in volunteers to lessen our workload. On the contrary, if we tried to give those volunteers substantive legal work, the supervisory burden probably would *reduce* the number of clients we could serve.

    In our clinic, each student and each case requires significant supervisory time. I suspect that's true in the public defender's office as well. For the work that requires little training, the PDs already have plenty of externs and other volunteers working for them! Students dropping in for 50 hours won't be much help.

    I agree with other commenters that the poor often need legal services. But, ironically, when the need is greatest the worth of volunteers is likely to be least. If someone's freedom, child custody, or job is on the line, they should be able to get help from a trained lawyer or a very well supervised student intern--not from a 50-hour "volunteer."

  76. @2:54

    Excuse me for assuming that the people doing the work should benefit. They should just be pawns then. As long as the judge feels that it's helping "the poors" then ignore the benefit to those who'll provide the services.

    I hope you're joking. The work, if found, should benefit these new attorneys. Law isn't charity. It's a profession. They want to eat and pay their loans/bills and find gainful employment.

    Additionally, a lot of other posts have addressed whether this type of "service" is really beneficial to "the poors."

  77. Law Prof you should be ashamed of the comments you allow on your blog. How can you allow a comment like "Lipman and Schweitzer should form an evil duo - called the two dumb fa****s." I would think a liberal like you wouldn't permit anti-gay remarks. Also allowing commenters to call a prominent judge an "as*****" is ridiculous. The comments reflect on you. Of course, maybe the commenters are just following the examples you set in your own posts.

  78. I have had no health insurance since last fall.

    I could not afford the double premium that came at the end of the year. Over 700 dollars.

    Does that make me poor?

  79. Either cite an example of LawProf calling someone a f*ggot or a**hole in any of hisown posts, or f*ck off.

  80. "I agree with other commenters that the poor often need legal services. But, ironically, when the need is greatest the worth of volunteers is likely to be least. If someone's freedom, child custody, or job is on the line, they should be able to get help from a trained lawyer or a very well supervised student intern--not from a 50-hour 'volunteer.'"

    This is one of my pet peeves about the proposal: the way it treats the indigent as guinea pigs to train attorneys. Under Lippman's proposal, they are to law students what cadavers are to medical students.

    The legal problems facing the indigent are not necessarily simple or easy. Lippman goes on and on about foreclosures, landlord-tenant cases and custody disputes. None of these are simple areas of the law, especially in New York. [Spend a few minutes with the Rent & Eviction regulations if you don't believe me.]

    The notion that newly-minted law grads who don't know the difference between a pleading and a motion or the address of the court house, let alone the unwritten conventions of practice in any particular court house or field, are going to be able to master the substantive law is, frankly, nuts. The level of supervision to avoid widespread malpractice is going to be substantial and, as Campos suggests, the court system would be better offer redirecting that money into existing legal services organization.

    Of course, this assumes that the newbies will be doing real cases as opposed to quasi-administrative tasks as suggested above, in which event there will be neither a meaningful increase in legal services to the poor nor real training of would-be lawyers.

  81. @3:52:

    I agree that the first comment should be deleted, but the word "asshole" is sublimely apt for describing many people in legal academia, this judge and people who complain about tone when the subject matter is the systematic defrauding of tens of thousands of law students every year.

  82. 4:08,
    If newbies do the admin work, I, the legal aid lawyer, can spend my time on the substantive aspects and provide legal services to more clients.

  83. Hmm... I see an opportunity here! Are these would-be lawyers allowed to donate their legal services to each other? If so, they could all represent each other in a giant class action suit against the law schools.

  84. "If someone's freedom, child custody, or job is on the line, they should be able to get help from a trained lawyer or a very well supervised student intern--not from a 50-hour "volunteer.""

    This screams "newbie." Have you ever done any legal work? For full disclosure, I am a first year lawyer who worked as a research assistant for two highly respected prof's in law school. My entire impression of the legal profession so far is, they will ask you do to something for them (write a letter, write a speech, draft a contract), then they will make cosmetic or no changes to it, then they will not give you any credit and in the case of private practice, submit a massive bill. I wrote a speech that was delivered to the securities commission while I was taking an intro Securities Regulation course. It was delivered verbatim. Similarly, my brother, in his first year summer law job, wrote a letter for his law firm which he spent about a half an hour writing. He showed it to his supervising partner who glanced at it and said, "good, now bill their account for $500." There seems to be no real expertise among most seasoned lawyers. There are a very tiny number of lawyers with genuine expertise, but most of the stuff they do could be done by kids out of law school. They don't feel bad about it either, because this is exactly what was done to them. Its particularly depressing because how am I supposed to believe in the system when it is so clear that its just set up so the older generation can bang on the younger generation, with the justification that a yet younger generation will come along for YOU to bang on?

  85. For Judges at all levels, dealing with pro se litigants can be a major pain in the ass. Chief Judge Lippman's plan to have (supervised) bar applicants help these litigants for free could help Judge Lippman and his fellow Judges a lot with these problems.

    I think the best phrase to describe this benefit that the Judiciary would receive from this plan would be "Doing Well By Doing Good!"

  86. Law grads are, for the large part, poorer than those who simply have no income and no debt.

  87. This is peonage, pure and simple. Mandatory pro bono, even for the "privilege" of practicing law, offends at least the 5th, 13th and 14th Amendment of the Constitution, it seems to me. The Fifth Amendment prohibits the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. A lawyer's time and effort constitute his stock in trade, i.e., her property. Any government edict that denies her full payment for her services is unconstitutional.

    The 13th Amendment forbids slavery or involuntary servitude within the United States. Applying common sense to interpret the broad language of the amendment, mandatory pro bono is involuntary servitude. See Bedford v. Salt Lake County, 447 P2d 194 ("For the legislature to attempt to compel a lawyer to work by passing a statute requiring a judge to order it done would be to take his property without giving just compensation, or to impose a form of involuntary servitude upon him".)

    Mandatory pro bono violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by singling out lawyers to provide special contribution (in time or money) to support the poor. See Cunningham v. Superior Court, 177 Cal. App. 3d 336 (1986)

    This notion is beyond the pale and so wrong-headed on so many different levels---the malpractice risk alone makes my head spin. Then, as two of the posters pointed out, the idiot judge does not even consider the very real risk of violence to the poor,naive baby lawyer. Where is the baby lawyer going to meet with the poor client? Her apartment? The client's apartment? When you practice small law long enough, just by the telephone call, you can get a real sense of who is too crazy or scary to represent, so you refuse to see them. But what about the baby-lawyer? I sure as hell wouldn't want my daughter coming into contact with some of these people. I could go on for days (any experienced small-law lawyer could), but I've already taken too much of the readers time.

    (Attribution for part of my comment to the TAFOL 1989 Position Paper on Mandatory Pro Bono)

  88. 4:20, 4:08 here. I'm ex- legal aid, so I get it, except I'm not sure having resentful non- politically committed individuals doing a handful of few hour stints of unpaid filing or intake is going to free up much time. Like current lawyers and mandatory CLE, the resentment factor will be huge. Grads will see this as a form of involuntary servitude following three expensive unpleasant and largely useless years in law school. I wouldn't want one of these folks in my office. Even absent this, the training + supervision off so many short-term temps would be far from trivial.

    Looking at this from 30,000 feet this is yet another example of what seems to be a structural shift in the US labor market. Even after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college and grad/professional school, folks are now expected to 'intern,' i.e., work for free. Lippman has taken this a step gurther and actually enshrined as a condition of entry.

  89. 4:31 p.m., I wish I were young enough to be a newbie, but I graduated from law school in 1980. I've done a variety of legal work over the years: clerking for (then judge) Ginsburg on the DC Circuit, clerking for Justice O'Connor on the Supreme Court, doing civil litigation with a private firm, teaching, arguing a case before the S Ct, four years of supervising misdemeanor defense work. This summer I'll be appointed a special prosecutor so I can supervise students learning to be prosecutors. (I do provide a link to my bio, so you could have checked that.)

    Your experience seems to reflect big-firm work. Yes, it is possible in that context for a law student to supply 50 hours of work that will be meaningful to the client and even generate money for the firm. A law student/recent grad can also contribute meaningfully to just about any appellate brief, including one submitted on behalf of an indigent client. And some schools have pro bono research projects that connect law students with public service organizations that need research memos on legal issues (like the impact of a new statute). All of that can be very helpful, but it's already happening and I see little prospect that NY's proposal will increase the benefit to low-income clients.

    In addition to my own experience in criminal defense, I work with both clinical professors and practitioners who do family and employment law. I think they all would agree with me that law students and recent grads need significant supervision before they can contribute meaningfully to any of this work. If I have a chance, I'll write a separate comment about what one actually does in misdemeanor defense--it's very, very different from writing speeches, contracts, and memos.

  90. @5:16:

    "Then, as two of the posters pointed out, the idiot judge does not even consider the very real risk of violence to the poor,naive baby lawyer. Where is the baby lawyer going to meet with the poor client? Her apartment? The client's apartment? When you practice small law long enough, just by the telephone call, you can get a real sense of who is too crazy or scary to represent, so you refuse to see them. But what about the baby-lawyer?"

    Beyond this very real threat that arises from the issue of facilities and/or amenities, there are dozens of other practical considerations.

    As a lawyer appearing in court, let's imagine you have three cases that you believe are relevant to present, and let's say they average 25 pages each. In my jurisdiction, you'll also need to supply a copy to both the opposing counsel and to the judge, so you've got to print off, at a minimum, 225 pages.

    At work, no problem. Industrial size copier. At home in the apartment where the student has a printer that prints one---page---at----a---time? The poor saps will have to spend a hundred bucks just for the reams of paper and ink cartridge refills.

    That's across the board. Most students likely don't have fax machines in their apartment. Making copies of anything means a trip to Kinko's with more out of pocket expenses.

    What are these people thinking?

    How long will it take before these people realize that, in terms of actual resources, a freshly minted law grad has far more in common with an indigent "client" than with Lippman and his colleagues?

  91. @5:50
    Lets say you are a baby lawyer and you have decided to move back home to, say, Liberty, New York--a tiny town in the Catskills. Where do you go do your research? Do you use your credit card (as if you have one) to go on Lexis-Nexis to do $100 worth of research to get the cases to print out? Or, since you have no money to do the research, do you commit legal malpractice (remember the baby lawyer has no malpractice insurance because he isn't really a lawyer yet, but somehow he can still go to court . . . puzzling)? So what is the poor client's recourse when his lawyer has committed malpractice? It makes my head hurt too much to think about.

    Exactly who is this idiot judge. Is he chief judge of the NY Supreme Court? What is his authority? Do any of you New Yorkers know?

  92. "[I]n terms of actual resources, a freshly minted law grad has far more in common with an indigent 'client'...."

    Apparently a JD is a magical talisman against poverty. (I think mine is broken though).

  93. Here is my take on this new burden as seen from the eyes of a 20-year practitioner.

    This rule favors Biglaw. Biglaw is in a better position to weather this requirement since it can write off the time on the firm's tax returns. The lowly solo cannot write off the time. Biglaw has malpractice insurance to cover the associate performing pro bono work. The lowly solo will likely not have malpractice insurance. Which raises the question: what good is it for the public to be represented by inexperienced "attorneys" who are also judgment proof and for which no real malpractice recourse will be available?

    Many jurisdictions impose a bona fide office rule. What if the new solo doesn't have a bona fide office? Does he/she risk a professional conduct infraction when forced to take on a client with no real office or resources? As correctly pointed out by many commenters, it costs money to churn cases through the system. You have service process fees, filing fees, discovery fees, copies (which can run in the thousands depending on the case), postage, phone calls, expert witness fees, etc. Do these morons think newbie attorneys have the resources to subsidize these cases? Oh and if you don't, you will be committing malpractice.

    Lastly, the all important question is whether the unemployed newly minted attorney who HAS TO take a pro bono case will be counted as employed within 9 months of graduation in his/her schools' employment stats. My guess is yes, after all, work is work.

    Once again, recent law grads get the shaft. If you are contemplating entering law school or are a 1L or 2L, cut your losses, don't go or drop out immediately. If you continue on this venture, don't expect sympathy from me when you get screwed without lube.


  94. 6:06- he is the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, New York's highest court. In New York, the trial courts are called "Supreme Court."

  95. A.E.S.,
    Did you even read the article?

  96. Usually I just read and cheer but today I have to post. Seriously, 50 hours can be completed in law school. I completed 50 hours with a newborn baby! And it was meaningful work - intake with a legal aid clinic doing wills for elderly and divorces for the poor. How about after law school? Well I called a local legal aid office (in another state from where I went to law school) and worked 10 hours a week (evictions and housing issues btw) for three months NO PROBLEM! So yeah, it is another crappy thing us "attorneys" have to do to practice but honestly - way bigger 100k loan fish to fry.....

  97. 7:48:

    Well, yay you supermom. You completely missed the point of the article. If you are so gung ho about it, maybe you can volunteer to do somebody else's hours as well.

  98. The anti-gay post has been up all day. I wonder why LP hasn't removed it. Maybe he doesn't want to remove it.

  99. The unacceptably offensive comment has been removed. The acceptably offensive comments have been retained.

  100. There is one other effect, LawProf, that you haven't considered: the effect this will have on jobs. In the past, new attorneys waiting for bar admission went and worked at a firm, getting a raise after they passed the bar. Those same attorneys? Now, because it's been made a requirement, they will no longer have to be paid.

    New York will have now have an endless supply of free, low-end, legal labor. This will just make it harder for a recent graduate to find a PAID job, when 10,000 graduates per year will now be competing for free, unpaid internships. But then, no one cares about the grads anyway.

  101. They should have made it 100 hours. 50 hours is not enough time to get "immersed" in one case.

  102. 4:31 here. @DJM, well my apologies. I guess I have become overly cynical about the legal profession and overly generalized my own experience. I guess I'm just disappointed that I thought a career in law would be a big intellectual challenge and so far it hasn't met my expectations in that regard. All of my work has felt menial. The only positive effect I can definitely say I've made is that I made life easier for some law professors, and slightly fattened the bank accounts of some lawyers. I guess the only thing I can do is model myself after those lawyers I do admire or find another way to pay back my loans.

  103. Third year attorney here. My advice for the newbs who have to fulfill this req now: fucking lie. Find some attorney willing to play ball and sign off on your 50 hours, but don't do shit.

  104. @DJM

    How wonderful for you that the law school game allowed you to do all those things that you listed. I mean that sincerely. But as a 25 year practicing lawyer, I don't think what you have done, as impressive as it is, amounts to the practice of law, and therefore, I'm not sure you can tell a young lawyer whether or not the practice of law is an intellectually demanding profession. The experience of a tenured law professor who "gets appointed special prosecutor" to superive students is not the experience of the typical DUI lawyer going to court twice a week to work out deals with the ADA and vice versa. Most of us have not had the "intellectually challenging" work of clerking for a DC circuit judge and then a Supreme Court judge. I know I have never been paid to write an esoteric law review on women and the law. I'm not sure what kind of civil litigation you did (probably for a big firm which means you were doing a slice of it---not the entire case), so I admit I can't judge the intellectual challenge of it. However, what you describe, is really not what the typical lawyer does. The day to day practice of law, whether it is biglaw or smalllaw, can be mind numbingly boring.

    As for law students making great contributions to a brief, I just don't see how they do it in 50 hours. I've done state and federal appellate work for 25 years. Unless one deeply immerses oneself in the case, it is difficult to discover and maximize the creative mining of a relevant thread of research---I don't see how that happens in fifty hours---I guess there are exceptions. As for supervising law students helping the local prosecuter, with all due respect, wouldn't it be better for the students if some 15 year ADA from Capital Law School who had seen all the tricks, knew the judges and defense lawyers inside out supervised them instead of a law professor? I'm just wondering.

    I don't want to sound like I'm beating you up too much, because clearly you are on the side of the angels when it comes to the law school scam. But when you recite your history, with such pride, however justified, in order to advertise the fact that you are not just one more out-of-touch law professor, you sound a little like one more out-of-touch law professor, albeit a very honorable one---and it pretty effectively lets many of the readers of this blog know, I suspect, that in the law school game you won and they didn't. I'm not saying you are deliberately trying to make the readers of the blog who did not attain your accomplishments feel diminished relative to you, I'm just wondering if that is not, the end result, nonetheless. At least this is how this lawyer in the trenches sees it.

    Notwithstanding the above comment, DJM, your presepective on the scam as a law professor is critical and valuable and may be one of the most important tasks you are doing at the moment, and I for one, appreciate you being here. I make the above criticism, gently I hope, with respect and appreciation.

    To the OP who provoked DJMs response: as far as I can see, most of the time, not all of the time, but most of the time, law is not that intellectually challenging. Sometimes (rarely) it is; sometimes (rarely) it is even enobling--you really do get to save someone from disaster. Thats my view. Someone like Mack may have a different take. Maybe he will let us know. But as nonintellectually challenging as it is, its not something a baby lawyer can just step in and do without significant supervision, anymore than I could go down to the local Volkswagon plant and start working on the assembly line after a few classes at Chattanooga State.

  105. Yes, let's give all the poor people untrained, still-in-school lawyers. These student-lawyers will surely fix the world's social problems, when they go up against the highly-paid teams of professional lawyers in the courtrooms. Poor people, your troubles are over, we will soon have overworked law students working on your cases in their spare time...

  106. Okay, so where was all this talk when people made the suggestion that law students could not learn exclusively in law schools, but should be paired with real lawyers to learn the process of lawyering. No one starting out is going to be practice ready. That is just a fact. They have to start somewhere on real issues. Why would simulations with lawyers be vastly better than simulations in school? So, if in-school law education does not prepare students for law school, now we're saying flatly that working with law firms, legal aid societies and so forth will be worthless too. I learned a great deal about being a lawyer from observing and helping out people who knew what they were doing in an environment where the decisions actually mattered. Law students are already in clinics helping to serve poor people. Should we stop that, too? Overworked law students?

  107. @tdennis239--I debated whether to make my comment for just the reasons you give. If I'd been able to reply privately to the "anonymous" poster I would have done that instead. I was just irritated by that commenter who, by his/her own admission, is one year out of law school and thinks that he/she knows enough about the legal profession to call another person a newbie. Many law professors are arrogant, but so are many new lawyers--especially when they graduate from elite law schools (as this commenter seems to have done). I responded to the "smack down" both from personal irritation and because this type of arrogance from recent grads holds some of my colleagues back from recognizing the scam for what it is.

    I agree completely that most law practice is not intellectually demanding in the academic sense; I didn't mean to give that impression from my comment, although I can see how it could be construed that way. Most law practice, I think, is intellectually demanding in the sense that it requires a lot of skills that are not learned in law school (including a whole set of people skills), and the brain has to keep those skills in play. I think good law practice, on any level, is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting--although sometimes exhilerating.

    I agree completely that this NY proposal is crazy. I was trying to be fair and say that there are some areas in which a law student could make a 50-hour contribution, but that those areas are already filled by student volunteers, externship programs, etc. The additional, essential work that low-income clients need won't be touched by this proposal. And it is just fundamentally immoral for practicing lawyers to require applicants to fulfill a requirement they won't impose on themselves.

    Sorry for my over-response to irritation at a recent grad. In the end, we just didn't educate him/her well enough :)

  108. DJM, I thought your response to the one-year attorney was more than fair, and that the attorney's much more sensible response at 10:28 indicates how education doesn't necessarily stop at graduation.

  109. @DJM

    I completely understand your irritation. Perhaps my response to you was overblown. If so, mea culpa. I love your comments and think you bring so much to this blog. (By the way, sometimes us oldtimers can be pretty arrogant and irritating, too.)

  110. DJM and Ms. Dennis: I always love to see your comments on this blog. You both bring a great deal of insight and thoughtfulness to the discussion. Thank you.

  111. "I responded to the "smack down" both from personal irritation and because this type of arrogance from recent grads holds some of my colleagues back from recognizing the scam for what it is."

    Wait a minute. Are you saying that the reason "some of [your] colleagues" can't accept that law school is a rip off is because of my flawed character, or because of the similarly flawed character of other law students? That must be the reason, because its definitely not the effect of economic self interest on their judgment or their own character flaws. I retract my apology, boomer.

  112. I worked in Legal Aid for 2 year, and the other Legal Aid folks posting here are nuts. The poor need dozens and dozens of things before they need civil legal services (and the criminal legal services are covered by a 3rd party payor).

    When courts advocate additional pro bono, it always seems a little self serving, because one of the primary beneficiaries of more pro bono is be courts themselves. In other words, "law students should be forced to spend 50 hours cleaning up lunatic rantings/"pro se pleadings" for courts as an additional barrier to entry" is what I hear.

  113. I was interested in your blog, until I read this diatribe against pro bono. What do you do if you are a baby attorney and need to do pro bono work? You come to a person like me in a nonprofit organization serving your community. I put hours in to training, hand holding, second chairing, reviewing pleadings, etc. I teach an area of law that can be profitable for them in another case. My organization provides malpractice insurance, office space, and covers all expenses. We even pay for travel into the rural communities for appearances.
    Is doing pro bono an empty waste of a baby attorneys time? No. Low income individuals need assistance with family law matters, bankruptcies, debt collection issues, small claims, immigration, tax controversies, the list goes on and on. We legal service attorneys can only represent so many people at a time. Pres. Reagan saw a day where we would not need to exist because the private bar would step up. Hasn't happened yet. Not holding my breath.

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