Rule Change Could Ease Justice Gap for the Poor

Corporate lawyers not licensed in New York can do pro bono work for the poor, the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, announced.

News Story (New York)

James C. McKinley, Jr.
New York Times (NYT)
December 2, 2013
Link to story

Tags: Disaster Recovery, Justice Gap, Legal Needs, Pro Bono

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Society (New York City), Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)


Lawyers who work for big corporations in New York but are not licensed to practice law in the state will be allowed to do pro bono work under a new rule meant to ease an acute shortage of legal representation for the poor, the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, announced on Monday.

The rule change, which takes effect on Wednesday, is the latest in a series of measures that Judge Lippman has championed in recent years to reduce what he calls “the justice gap.” New York is the fourth state to let out-of-state lawyers working as counsel for corporations offer their services to the poor, without restrictions.

Speaking at New York University Law School, Judge Lippman said the Legal Aid Society and similar charities were only able to provide lawyers to one in five of the impoverished people who seek help with legal matters. At the same time, he said, thousands of in-house corporate lawyers in New York City are prevented from volunteering, because while they have been admitted to the bar in other states, they are not licensed to practice in New York. He estimated the new rule would allow nonprofit legal services to tap a reservoir of about 5,000 volunteers.
“Just because we are corporate lawyers doesn’t mean we don’t want to help the needy,” said David H. Brill, president of the New York Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Steven Banks, attorney-in-chief at the Legal Aid Society, said the demand for legal help in New York City has risen dramatically since Hurricane Sandy struck last year.