11/8/10

From Baby Boom to Pro Bono Boon

New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has announced the expansion of a program that recruits older attorneys, both practicing and retired, to take civil cases on a pro bono basis.

Lippman hopes to tap into the retiring baby boomer demographic to increase the number of pro bono lawyers who can represent poor New Yorkers in foreclosure, housing, family and other civil cases.

The Attorney Emeritus Program, recognized by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government's "Bright Ideas" program,was initially open only to retired lawyers in good standing who were at least 55 and had practiced law for at least 10 years.

Lawyers who volunteer at least 30 hours of free legal services every year to low-and moderate-income clients get free training and are exempt from the state's $375 registration fee and mandatory CLE requirements.

Due to the outpouring of interest from lawyers who wanted to participate but were not yet ready to retire, eligibility has now been expanded to include lawyers that are still working but otherwise meet the program's age and experience requirements.

So far, the program has matched roughly 200 volunteer lawyers with one of more than 50 legal services and pro bono providers.

Lippman said that expanding the pool of eligible attorneys to include nonretirees could make it the biggest pro bono program in the state -- about 22,000 lawyers are expected to turn 55 in the next five years.

The court system is modifying the biennial attorney registration form so that active attorneys can choose to participate in the Attorney Emeritus Program.

Interested lawyers can call 877-800-0396 or complete an online application at www.nycourts.gov/

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