Mandatory Pro Bono Down In Ole Miss
The Mississippi Supreme Court is considering whether to require the state’s lawyers to either provide “at least 20 hours of free service to the poor each year” or buy their way out of the requirement by donating “$200 to $500” a year in fees. The arguments for an against mandatory pro bono – whether in law schools or in practice – are familiar. Lawyers in the Mississippi make them pretty well:
Don Lacy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowood,_Mississippi. . . lambastes the proposal as “an unprecedented and unjustifiable unilateral extension of the authority of the court.”
“Other than perhaps the priesthood, I am unaware of any profession which requires its members, as a condition of their right to practice their craft, to contribute a portion of their income to charity,” Lacy said in a letter to the court.
There are supporters, however, and Will Bardwell, a Jackson lawyer in private practice for a little more than a year, is among them.
“I understand the argument, doubtlessly voiced by many of my colleagues, that no one should be required to provide what is, in essence, community service,” Bardwell said. “Fundamentally, I agree. But the fact is that attorneys are different. That distinction exists as both an honor, and sometimes, a burden.
For what it is worth, I’m with Lacy. If the State thinks that there is a need for more and cheaper legal work for the poor, it should loosen restrictions on entry into the profession. This proposal, which increases barriers to entry and to practice, may make the problem worse.
(But see SHG)