As Pro Bono Week Kicks Off, NY Chief Judge Expands ‘Emeritus’ Legal Help Program

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New York’s chief judge is expanding an “emeritus” program that pairs retired lawyers with low and moderate-income people needing free legal help.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced Monday that the program will be expanded to include lawyers who are still practicing law but nearing retirement, the New York Law Journal reports.

He made his announcement at the beginning of Celebrate Pro Bono Week, the New York Law Journal reports in a separate story. The celebration, sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, encourages pro bono and showcases the work of volunteer lawyers, according to an ABA press release.

Lippman says the expanded emeritus program helps leverage the demographic shift that is bringing an unprecedented number of lawyers near retirement.

Lawyers in the New York program who donate 30 hours a year to pro bono work get free training and waiver of both the state’s $375 attorney registration fee and requirements for continuing legal education.

To qualify for the program, lawyers must be at least 55 years old and must have 10 years of practice experience.

ABA President Stephen N. Zack notes that the ABA has a goal calling for lawyers to spend 50 hours a year providing pro bono service. “The commitment to pro bono work is fundamental to being a lawyer,” he said in the ABA press release. “Pro bono helps fill the enormous justice gap faced by poor people in our country, answering a need that’s greater than ever during economic hard times.”

In conjunction with Celebrate Pro Bono Week, hundreds of law firms, bar associations and other legal groups are showcasing pro bono work with free legal-service events and providing pro bono training.

Events include a new pro bono project at Rutgers law school in Camden that helps federal prisoners re-enter the community and a new statewide Ask-a-Lawyer program in Idaho that will be staffed by government pro bono lawyers, according to an op-ed by Zack. Other programs getting news coverage include:

• In Utah, lawyers throughout the state are offering free legal advice relating to bankruptcy and immigration, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

• In Baltimore, lawyers are sponsoring a free legal clinic and debtor assistance workshops, the Baltimore Sun reports.

• In Ohio, lawyers are hosting seminars on family and elder law issues, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Story updated at 12:45 p.m. to clarify that Lippman’s announcement was made the same day as the kickoff of Celebrate Pro Bono Week.

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