A Barrier to Entry: Moving the Bar

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Lawyers are some of the most highly esteemed professionals in the world. They need to be intelligent, well educated, and dedicated. There are high standards for entry into the profession. One most go through undergraduate school, law school, and finally, they must pass the bar exam. Admission to the bar is the final barrier for entry into the legal profession. In New York, the requirements for admission to the bar are about to change in a subtle but meaningful way.

Pro Bono Requirements for Bar Admission

This creative requirement for admissions to the New York Bar Association was first introduced in 2012. It called upon all would-be lawyers to perform at least 50 hours of pro bono law service before being admitted to the bar. Pro bono service is simple service performed for the public good without charge. This was seen as an excellent way to prove a new lawyers’ dedication and give them the chance to provide some much needed community service.

Meeting Pro Bono Requirements

The 2012 addition of pro bono requirements for bar admissions in New York was a rousing success. One minor drawback did gradually appear. Monitoring these pro bono hours was quickly becoming an administrative nightmare. The rule dictates that the new lawyer doing the pro bono work must be supervised by an attorney from the same jurisdiction. This required extensive coordination between law schools, faculty members, court clerks, and practicing attorneys. The high amount of bureaucracy made the system unwieldy.

Making a Change

The bar association decided to remove the requirement that supervising attorneys practice in the same jurisdiction as the law students they are supervising. The hope is that this will untangle the previously complicated process and make it easier for law students to meet bar requirements. The emergence of a burgeoning global law community was cited as one reason for striking away the antiquated location based requirement.

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