Campus News

Law School ready to accommodate new pro bono requirement

law school, pro bono work

The UB Law School’s clinical education program, headed by Kim Diana Connolly (left rear), shown here with some of her students, will play a key role in helping students meet the new requirement of completing 50 hours of pro bono legal work before they can take the bar exam. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE


Published October 18, 2012

The UB Law School is busy preparing to help its students fulfill a new state requirement that aspiring lawyers must complete 50 hours of pro bono legal work before they can take the bar exam.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the new requirement, unique in the nation, on Sept. 19. The pro bono work required of applicants to the state bar after Jan. 1, 2015, must be for the benefit of poor persons, nonprofit or civil rights groups, or any of the three branches of government. Students must be under the supervision of a practicing lawyer, a judge or a member of a law school faculty.

The requirement was imposed to help meet a large demand for civil legal services. “The new pro bono service requirement for admission to the New York bar serves to address the state’s urgent access to justice gap, at the same time helping prospective attorneys build valuable skills and imbuing in them the ideal of working toward the greater good,” Lippman said. “It is so important that the next generation of lawyers in New York embraces the core values of our profession that so fundamentally include pro bono legal assistance.”

Applicants to the bar can meet the 50-hour requirement in a number of ways, including pro bono work done overseas. UB Law School’s clinics and externship program, which combine legal teaching with hands-on law practice, will play key roles in students fulfilling the mandate, as will the school’s close relationship with legal service agencies. The UB Law Class of 2015, whose graduates will have to meet the new standard, numbers about 205 students.

“I commend Chief Judge Lippman for promulgating this new requirement for bar admission, said UB Law Dean Makau W. Mutua, who served on the chief judge’s 14-member Advisory Committee on New York State Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements. “It will go a long way in providing needed legal services to the poor in our state and inculcating a commitment to public service in our noble profession. This program has the potential to foster a strong service ethic in law students that they will carry in their hearts and minds throughout their careers.”

The Law School’s clinical education program comprises eight clinics that serve students and the community in the areas of affordable housing, economic advocacy, consumer and financial advocacy, environmental policy, social work, mediation, elder law and family violence.

The clinics offer diverse and sophisticated practice opportunities to second- and third-year students who work closely with skilled supervising attorneys. Clinical courses help students understand the essential relationship between thinking about legal problems and dealing with client problems. Rather than focusing on routine legal services, the Law School’s clinical offerings involve complex matters in which creativity and innovation play key roles in serving clients effectively.

In addition, the school has an extensive program of externships and judicial clerkships that also will help satisfy the pro bono requirement.