Date: May 18, 2010
Hon. Ann Pfau
Chief Judge Lippman Appoints Advisory Council to Foster Pro Bono by New York’s Most Experienced Lawyers
NEW YORK – Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has appointed an Advisory Council to promote a sea change in the already strong pro bono culture of New York's legal profession. After amending court rules effective this past January to create an Attorney Emeritus status, Chief Judge Lippman is taking this next step to leverage the demographic shift that is bringing unprecedented numbers of experienced lawyers to the verge of retirement, and to channel those enormous resources to assist the growing number of vulnerable New Yorkers unable to find legal assistance.
The Council will be co-chaired by John D. Feerick, former Dean and now Professor of Law at Fordham Law School, and Fern Schair, Immediate Past-Chair of Legal Services for New York City, the largest civil legal services organization in the country, and will consist of statewide representatives of the private bar, the legal services and pro bono communities, the court system, law schools and the nonprofit sector. The Council will monitor the Attorney Emeritus Program’s progress and advise the Chief Judge and court leaders in the following areas:
The Attorney Emeritus Program took effect January 25 and has received an enthusiastic response from the state’s legal community. To date, 126 retired lawyers have volunteered their services and are being connected to 53 participating legal services and pro bono programs around the state.
To be eligible for Attorney Emeritus status, applicants must be retired lawyers in good standing who are at least 55 years old and have practiced law for a minimum of 10 years. Attorneys Emeritus pledge to provide at least 30 hours annually of unpaid legal assistance to low and moderate-income clients in various civil and family matters under the auspices of qualified programs.
The Attorney Emeritus Program was designed to make senior lawyer pro bono as convenient and comprehensible as possible. Attorneys Emeritus are not subject to the $350 attorney registration fee or mandatory CLE requirements, and training is provided free of charge by sponsoring organizations. Volunteers are afforded malpractice coverage by sponsoring organizations or covered by the defense and indemnification provisions of Public Officers Law. They also receive special recognition from the Chief Judge and the New York State Bar Association.
Chief Judge Lippman said, “The Attorney Emeritus Program is the most ambitious effort of its kind in the country, with the court system and the entire legal community working together to inspire experienced lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to low-income clients who cannot afford counsel. At a time when more New Yorkers than ever cannot afford lawyers, it is critical that we take full advantage of a great untapped resource – the many baby boomer lawyers who want to use their retirement years to serve the less fortunate in our society. I am grateful to Professor Feerick and Ms. Schair for agreeing to lead the Advisory Council. With their help, we will capitalize on the early momentum of the Attorney Emeritus Program and develop a successful blueprint for its future.”
Professor Feerick stated, “I have met so many lawyers over the years who are ready and looking to do something very worthwhile to contribute to our society. This comes at just the right time. Bravo to the courts of New York!”
Ms. Schair added, “With diminished resources, the ability to recruit, train, and support volunteers by most legal services programs is already severely challenged. This Council will support those efforts by providing best practices and shared resources to ensure quality legal services for those vulnerable New Yorkers in need.”
Eligible attorneys may enroll in the Attorney Emeritus Program by visiting www.nycourts.gov and filling out a short online form, calling 877-800-0396 or completing the appropriate section on their next attorney registration form.
New York State Attorney Emeritus Advisory Council Membership Roster