State Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-153, this week circulated among House colleagues proposed language for a resolution urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to require aspiring lawyers to perform pro bono work before practicing law
Dean said the idea behind the resolution started in part because of similar successful mandates in other states. Beginning in 2015, aspiring New York lawyers will be required to complete 50 hours of free legal service before practicing law. Although New York has taken the lead in establishing these requirements for bar admission, 21 national law schools require students to complete pro bono work to fulfill graduation requirements, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"Since many aspiring lawyers currently provide free legal service prior to practicing law, I believe that Pennsylvania should mandate that all prospective Pennsylvania lawyers provide these essential services," Dean said in a Feb. 20 press release. "This requirement will not only provide prospective lawyers with valuable and practical experience, but communities and organizations impacted by the declining budgets of the commonwealth will receive vital assistance to ensure that legal services are provided to all in need, as well."
The resolution would urge the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to require the completion of 50 hours of pro bono service before receiving a license to practice law in the commonwealth. These services would be provided to people with limited financial means, nonprofit organizations, civil rights groups and government entities.
Dean said the financial crisis and a slow economy have increased the demand for civil legal services.
"People face complicated, life-altering legal situations without proper recourse or guidance too often," Dean said. "We have the opportunity to help many of those groups and people with this simple requirement. At the same time, an aspiring lawyer can benefit from exposure to early casework and responsibility.”