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NY top judge proposes law students work for credit

Judge Jonathan Lippman shown during a swearing-in ceremony

Judge Jonathan Lippman shown during a swearing-in ceremony at the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany, N.Y. (Feb. 25, 2009) (Credit: AP)

New York’s chief judge proposed Tuesday that law-school students spend their last semester doing free legal work for credit, saying it would provide vital services to the poor and real-world experience for would-be lawyers.

“Why not give law students choices that can make all three years of law school more meaningful and worthwhile?” Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in his annual State of the Judiciary address.

Lippman said the state Board of Law Examiners has already approved the “Pro Bono Scholars Program” and that the initiative will be offered in all the state's 15 law schools, including Hofstra University and Touro College.

He called the program the “first of its kind in the country.” It would not be mandatory for all law-school students, but would offer them credit and an accelerated schedule for taking the bar exam.

“The benefits of the Program could not be more apparent,” the judge said. “We offer this new option of coupling early bar admission, practical experience, and service to the poor as part of what must be a partnership of the academy, the judiciary, and the profession to help close the justice gap and ensure the nobility and relevance of the legal profession in the challenging years ahead. Together, we can lay a cornerstone for the future of legal education, for lawyers, and for the vital services they provide in New York and around the nation -- to rich and poor, high and low alike.”

Click here to read Lippman's address.

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