The New York City Bar Association (NYCBA), The City University of New York Law School (CUNYLS), and a number of BigLaw firms have banned together to serve moderate-income legal consumers in New York who don’t qualify for legal aid – employing new law graduates to provide this service who would otherwise have to enter the over saturated legal market. The NYCBA issued a press release on October 15, 2015 announcing the Court Square Law Project (Project) as an “innovative solution” to the current legal climate in New York.
According to the press release, the Project was borne out of the NYCBA’s Fall 2013 report titled Developing Legal Careers and Delivering Justice in the 21stCentury. The press release states that new law school graduates face a market plagued by an “oversupply” of lawyers. It also addresses the access to justice crisis facing legal consumers with moderate means.
Nationwide, fewer than four in ten moderate-income individuals faced with a serious legal issue relating to personal finance, housing, employment, or similar matters seek professional assistance, and almost one quarter do nothing. It is difficult to find legal counsel at an affordable price and there are competing priorities for limited resources. In New York City, 99 percent of tenants are unrepresented in eviction cases; 99 percent of consumers are unrepresented in hundreds of thousands of consumer credit cases filed each year; and 97 percent of parents are unrepresented in child support matters.
The Project will draw aid from CUNYLS, BigLaw firms (its “Founding Sponsors”), and the NYCBA. CUNYLS will supply the offices, research resources, information technology, and other support, as well as a “special graduate law program” for those chosen to participate. Each of the 19 “Founding Sponsor” BigLaw firms will contribute $100,000 in startup funding. For it’s part, the NYCBA will provide seasoned bar members as mentors to the Project fellows and instructors.
The Project has been established as a five-year pilot program with no more than ten attorney fellows in each of the first four years. Each fellow will be hired for a two-year “fellowship residency,” and will be paid a stipend. The training, mentoring, supervision and experience the fellows receive are intended to enable them to transition into a “self-sustaining law practice.”
LPR hopes that this pilot program proves to be successful, and that more jurisdictions recognize and address the access to justice issues facing moderate-income legal consumers.