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A study shows that just 20 percent of New YorkState’s legal needs are being met.

The economic downturn has created a greater need for pro bono legal services, which is why New York State is set to become the first state in the U.S. to require law students to perform 50 hours of pro bono work as a condition of getting licensed.

Genesee County Bar Association President Durin Rogers says that the State has it right in trying to lessen what is called the “justice gap,” especially here in Genesee County.

 “The ruling would probably be very welcomed by our local (legal aid organizations). For instance, our Legal Aid Society and our public defender-type agencies, who, at this point, and probably for all like-agencies across the state are overburdened.”

A concern in the New York State legal community is that the requirement could be too burdensome on law students. Rogers agrees, but due to logistical, not time issues. He says schools should assist students with this responsibility to ensure it doesn't interfere too heavily with their education.

 Rogers says an increase in evictions and foreclosures, child support, divorces, and credit disputes due to the country's financial situation have spurred a demand for legal services.

The arcitect of the rule, Judge Jonathan Lippman, says that New York State is leading the way in requiring law students to provide legal service.

“We’re going to write the script nationally,” Judge Lippman said in an interview with the New York Times. “I think what we’re doing will be replicated around the country.”

 The rule goes into effect Jan. 1.

 

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