They say charity begins at home. Well for the lawyers of the New York State Bar charity would have to begin in law school or after law school in order to be licensed to practice. Reported in the New York Times, the move has been made to make legal services available to those in desperate situations like foreclosure and domestic violence. The present economic climate has seen an uphill rise in the amount of such cases and the inability for most involved paying for legal services. The funding for pro bono services has also gone down. While the reason for such a move is noble and the timing impeccable to the current economic scenario, the question remains whether making anything mandatory is the right way to go. It raises many interesting questions, one being whether a noble ideal as giving back to the society should be made compulsory. One argument that comes to mind is that forcing a noble ideal defeat the whole purpose of that ideal. A parallel can be drawn with the compulsory rural service for doctors who study with state aid in India. But it may be noted that while state aid justifies compulsory rural service, the scenario is quite the contrary in a country like the USA where law school is a very expensive affair and compulsory legal aid may not be the best way to go. It places more burdens on a generation that is hassled to find work in the current economy.
However it needs to be said that Judge Lippman is completely right in saying that “The legal profession should not be seen as argumentative, narrow or avaricious, but rather one that is defined by the pursuit of justice and the desire to assist our fellow man.”