Monday, April 22, 2013

Pro Bono Requirements for New Attorneys

In addition to teaching legal writing to our international LL.M. students, I also offer an essay-writing-for-the-bar-exam writing class for foreign-trained lawyers. In fact, it seems that I have become the resident New York bar exam guru, and the latest bar exam issue of note are the pro bono requirements starting in 2015 for every applicant to the New York State Bar Association.

Students from next year's incoming LL.M. class are already asking about the new requirements and if the law school has a program to help international students meet the 50-hour requirement. Although our incoming LL.M. class is usually around 75 students, the number of international students that take and pass the New York bar exam and apply for admission to the New York State Bar Association is quite low. However, this morning I read on that California and New Jersey may follow New York's lead. Further, the ABA has been asked to incorporate a 50-hour pro bono requirement into its law school accreditation standards.

What does all this mean for teaching legal writing to international students? Well, to start, it might mean thinking carefully about what we teach and why. According to an article on,
pro bono offers students a valuable opportunity to acquire specific skills of the profession that include: interviewing clients, analyzing and developing facts, interpreting law and drafting affirmative and responsive pleadings, presenting oral argument, carrying out legal research, interpreting and explaining legal documents, educating the public about the requirements of the law, and understanding the operation of justice system institutions.
While legal writing professors may not be charged with developing all these skills, many of them fall within the purview of the legal writing class. So where do we go from here?

For more information:

New York Courts Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements:

"Pro Bono Mandate Gains Steam"

"Is the New York 50 Hour Requirement Changing the Future of Law Student Pro Bono?"

H/T Robert Downey

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