By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the fall of 2012, New York became the first state to require lawyers to perform 50 hours of pro bono work as a condition for getting a license. The new rule, which takes effect in 2015, aims to help fill the legal needs of New York's poor, and will apply to those sitting for the 2015 New York State bar exam.
The pro bono mandate can be completed with, for example, internships at public service organizations. Students can also fulfill the mandate by participating in a variety of clinics provided by their respective law schools.
“The 50-hour pro bono requirement is easily met by Brooklyn Law School’s extensive clinics and course offerings,” Eric Riley, director of communications at BLS, told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
When notice of the mandate came down, BLS Dean Nick Allard expressed the school’s intent to “support and advance both the spirit and the letter of the new rule.” BLS is now in the process of adding new clinics to its already extensive roster to provide students with a myriad of opportunities to gain their pro bono experience.
“In addition to our 30 existing clinics and externship programs, we are adding a new clinic this fall,” Riley noted. The new clinic, the Elder Rights Clinic, allows students to “work on housing and benefit matters as well as elder abuse cases,” said Riley.
Across the river in Manhattan, New York Law School is also expanding its clinics and experiential learning programs. Beginning in the 2013–14 academic year, students at NYLS will be presented with 13 new clinics that will expand their real-world opportunities in the practice of law.
“Our goal is to ensure that every student, before they graduate, can and will take advantage of a first-rate clinical placement or supervised externship and will have the chance to work on real cases, transactions, and advocacy efforts, with real people — clients and witnesses, business owners and entrepreneurs, government officials, and others,” said NYLS Dean Anthony Crowell.
The new clinics at NYLS will allow students to work in a diverse range of practice areas, including child welfare, civil rights and education; criminal prosecution and post-conviction remedies; legislative and human rights advocacy; administrative enforcement and tort litigation defense on behalf of the city; pro bono business and tax counseling for not-for-profits and start-ups; and individual taxpayer assistance.
“We are excited to be offering these new courses,” said Professor Stephen Ellmann, director of NYLS’s Office of Clinical and Experiential Learning. “They expand an already extensive skills curriculum, and they mark the school’s commitment to developing innovative ways to help our students get ready for the practice of law while instilling the values of professionalism and integrity that are critical components of the profession.”
With Brooklyn Law School’s 30 existing clinics and externship programs, and more on the horizon, Allard’s words ring true: “If Brooklyn Law School cannot adhere to the new law, no school can.”