Posts Tagged ‘indentured servitude’

https://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/g/GromovatayaIrina/03/l/1458732114nc9vo.jpgIf the American Bar Association (ABA) is underwriting something — America’s lawyers be wary. This is the organization led a few years ago by an oblivious President with the stones to blame students for opting for law school in a declining economy — this while the selfsame was roundly criticized for its own considerable regulatory failings.

And despite having done more than its share to create the lawyer glut, the ABA stands around even now, in the words of one critic, “limp-wristed” while law schools race to the bottom repeatedly lowering LSAT admission scores trawling for matriculants as enrollments decline. Any wonder another commentator declares, “The ABA can’t be trusted”?

More recently, politically correct ABA do-gooders have recommended bar associations adopt a “speech code” for lawyers — the violation of which means discipline.

And just days ago, the ABA House of Delegates adopted a new model rule concerning continuing legal education, recommending in part that state bars uniformly impose a 15-hour minimum continuing legal education requirement per jurisdictional reporting period. As usual, the ABA trots out the self-serving claptrap offered without a scintilla of empirical proof that “MCLE continues to play a crucial role in maintaining public confidence in the legal profession and the rule of law and promoting the fair administration of justice.” Pretentious pretextual poppycock notwithstanding, left out as usual is the truth that MCLE mostly serves to line bar association coffers nationwide. Ka-ching!

Such was the context for the announcement of a pro bono survey project launched by the ABA last year. It was just rolled out in Arizona.

On its website, the ABA explains it offered “its pro bono survey instrument, free of charge, to states interested in studying various aspects of the profession’s pro bono culture.” One can only guess what that means although after welcoming survey-takers, the questionnaire reveals its intentions:

“You have been asked to participate in this survey so that we may gain a better understanding of legal services provided to low and moderate income people in your state. This is a nationwide effort to quantify and recognize the pro bono work provided by attorneys, as well as to understand the factors that encourage or discourage pro bono service. We are interested in the perspectives of attorneys who have provided such services as well as attorneys who have not.”

What the “better understanding” leads to, however, is another question. Otherwise, to the frequently asked question, “What are the states expected to do with the results?” — it answers:

The ABA encourages the state leadership teams to review the findings and collaborate to generate state program and policy recommendations. In the summer and fall of 2017, the ABA will facilitate conference calls with each of the participating states to review the findings and discuss recommendations.”

https://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/j/Jamierodriguez37/03/l/1426633399eunhs.jpg Carrots turned cudgels.

Since I ignored the first email solicitation from the Arizona Bar CEO to take the survey, last week I received a reminder to “take a few minutes” to participate in “this worthy effort” along with “an incentive to complete the survey.” No further reminders necessary for this resolute non-participant.

Based on the time it took Nebraska lawyer survey participants to complete the survey, it’s anticipated it will take lawyers more than “a few minutes” since Nebraska participants took an average of 32 minutes to finish it. And ostensibly an anonymous survey, that anonymity flies out the window if Arizona Bar members elect the Bar’s incentive to “be included in a drawing for a $150.00 gift card.”

In 2014, the State Bar of Arizona dangled a $250 Visa gift card as the sole prize for contestants vying to create a 15-second Instagram video with the mandatory phrase, “Finish the ballot. Vote for the judges!” To the best of my knowledge, the Bar never disclosed the winner or the wining video most likely because of embarrassing sparse participation. More recently, the Bar offered another gift card incentive to induce participation in its triennial lawyer compensation survey.

Compulsory lawyer servitude.

Ever the jaundiced one, I suspect these surveys will be used to advance program and policy goals of those clamoring for mandatory pro bono. Their salivary glands have never stopped drooling ever since New York became the first state to mandate pro bono work.

In New York, the forced pro bono rule was inflicted on law school graduates as a condition for bar admission. New York bar applicants must perform 50 hours of pro bono work before they can be admitted and some day hope to earn a living as lawyers.

Unlike other professionals, lawyers inexplicably remain the sole special snowflakes compelled to belong to their trade associations as conditions to earn a living. And soon enough lawyers may be the solitary profession whose services should also be compulsorily given away.


Credits: Morguefile.com, no attribution; Making Faces, at Flickr by a2gemma via Creative Commons-attribution license.


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File:The idle servant.jpgIndentured servitude was preferable to what New York has decided to do next year. Thanks to New York’s Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, new applicants to the New York State Bar will be required to prove they have performed 50 hours of free (pro bono) legal services before they can qualify to practice in the Empire State. At least indentured servants got food, clothing and shelter in exchange for uncompensated work.

But in this case, the usual blame can’t be laid at the feet of those habitual intruders into lawyer liberty – – – your friendly state bar association. Mandatory-membership state bar associations are the usual suspects when it comes to finding new ways to infringe on lawyer autonomy and free enterprise. Last year, for example, state bars around the country began imposing mandatory mentorship requirements on lawyers.

No, New York is unique. The rules for admission are set directly by the court and its administrative board and not through the normal regulatory conduit, the state bar association. Most everywhere else, state bars provide convenient ‘cover’ for the purported salutary impulses of a state’s supreme court. See, for example, Arizona State Bar proposes new attorney discipline rules.

High-handed charity.

Judge Lippman made his imperious announcement as part of Law Day festivities where he said, “If pro bono is a core value of our profession, and it is—and if we aspire for all practicing attorneys to devote a meaningful portion of their time to public service, and they should—these ideals ought to be instilled from the start, when one first aspires to be a member of the profession.”
And invoking the oft-quoted and much-favored ‘privilege not a right’ argument [1] that always inoculates the powerful against complaints of overreaching, the jurist added, We think that if you want that privilege, that honor of practicing law in the state of New York…then you are going to have to demonstrate that you believe in our values.”

Nevertheless, the New York court system’s mandated magnanimity and coerced compassion are breathtaking in their audacity. But they invite further descriptors such as tin-eared, even hare-brained.

The words of Ambroise Clément have never been more apt. Charity’s a virtue only when it’s “free and spontaneous.” Otherwise, State and, therefore, forced, charity is not a virtue, it is a tax. And likewise, Thomas Jefferson, who writing in “Notes on the State of Virginia,” said, “What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites.”

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And talk about tone deafness, as though struggling, underemployed and unemployed new law school graduates aren’t themselves already in need. See, for instance, “From J.D. to Food Stamps: The Personal Cost of Going to Law School.”

And just this week, data from the non-profit consumer advocacy and law school policy reform organization Law School Transparency reported by the Wall Street Journal revealed that the “Projected Law School Debt Figures Revised Even Higher” meaning that the average debt for the law school Class of 2015 will be an astronomical $210,796.

Which means that if other courts eventually copy-cat New York and also say “Jump!” then new lawyers will be consigned only to ask, “How high?” when mandatory pro bono is imposed universally.

But on a lighter note, this finally gets me to an example of a high jumper who doesn’t mind being told to jump. It’s the jump-roping Geronimo, the “Double-Dutch Dog,” who by the smile on his face, will always have fun when told to jump.


[1] “Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions.In re Rouss, 221 N.Y. 81, 84 (1917)

Credits: “The idle servant” by Nicolaes Maes, via Wikipedia Commons and in the public domain;

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