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Mandatory Preadmission Pro Bono Work in New Jersey
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In a report released on Thursday, the New Jersey Courts’ Working Group on the Proposed Preadmission Pro Bono Requirement, created by New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, recommended a rule requiring those seeking admission to the New Jersey bar to complete 50 hours of pro bono work.

Similar to the requirement in New York, the rule encompasses a broad definition of pro bono work including existing law school clinics, internships and clerkships. However, while the New York rule extends the scope of qualifying work to pro bono work done anywhere in the world, the New Jersey rule accepts only work done in U.S. as qualifying work for the purpose of the rule.

Practicing attorneys at the New Jersey bar already need to do pro bono work assigned to them by the court, though there is no requirement of completing a mandatory number of hours.

  
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The state Bar Association of New Jersey has opposed adoption of the rule and has passed a resolution, following Thursday’s report, criticizing the proposal as an unnecessary burden on law students, citing current pro bono requirements for lawyers practicing in New Jersey.

The resolution of the bar association observed that the association, “finds the proposal … unnecessary, unworkable and an affront to consumers who expect experienced practitioners to provide legal services.”

However, Judge Glenn Grant, the acting administrative director of New Jersey’s court system and the chair of the pro bono committee, said in an interview that all qualifying work under the new rule would be supervised by licensed attorneys. This according to Grant should allay any fears about the quality of work delivered by law students.

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Grant observed, “Being a member of the bar is a privilege, and the idea of giving back has been institutionalized by every court system in the country.” He also mentioned that 90 percent of students in New Jersey’s three law schools usually complete sufficient pro bono work to fulfill the 50-hour requirement.

“You can probably complete it, at a fast pace, within 30 days or even a week,” said Grant.



The pro bono rule would apply to anyone admitted to the New Jersey bar after Jan 1, 2015.



 

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