Going public with pro bono donations roils NY Bar

Chuck Otey's Pro Bono Barrister

December 9, 2013 By Charles F. Otey, Esq Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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By May 2015, every practicing attorney in the state may be required to report in detail the amount of hours they have dedicated to pro bono service; list the amount of money each has donated to pro bono legal service organizations; and do all of this with the understanding that all such information will ultimately be made public and will be accessible on the Internet.

Why? “Because it is our responsibility to give it [the information] out,” said Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.”If someone asks for the information, they can have it.”

Following widespread uproar by bar leaders to the initial announcement by Judge Lippman, this endeavor may have been delayed to 2015, but “public disclosure” will be made mandatory by April of that year.

Demonstrating appropriate restraint, Brooklyn Bar Association president Andrew Fallek – not speaking for the BBA — took sharp issue with the stunning declaration by the chief judge.

“The New York State Bar Association and other local associations would like to have more dialogue with the chief judge with these kinds of issues before they are unilaterally imposed,” he told Eagle legal editor Charisma Miller.

The BBA has not yet officially considered the pro bono measure. And conversations with a number of local barristers revealed that the new reporting requirements would be onerous. They’re viewed as yet another challenge facing the legal profession, which is already decimated by the rush of technology and the outsourcing of much law work to faraway places such as Bombay.

Adding his voice to the chorus was NYSBA President David Schraver, who wrote the chief judge back in June, pointing out that “Court rules affecting lawyers and the practice of law were announced without any opportunity for the organized bar to provide comment or input.”

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