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The Kurzon Blawg

New Pro Bono Requirements in New York

by Kurzon LLP on 05/08/13

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced last week new reporting rules for attorneys. Effective May 1, 2013 every attorney admitted to practice law in New York will be required to report the following information when filing their biennial attorney registration statement:

(1) the number of hours voluntarily spent providing unpaid legal services to poor
and underserved clients during the previous biennial registration period; and
(2) the amount of voluntary financial contributions made to organizations
primarily or substantially engaged in providing legal services to the poor and
underserved during the previous biennial registration period.

As well, the number of pro bono service hours that each lawyer should aspire to give to the underserved is 50 hours per year (increased from 20); although this requirement remains voluntary.

Judge Lippman said, “While the legal profession in our state selflessly provides millions of hours of pro bono work to help people of limited means each year, the civil legal needs of low income New Yorkers are enormous and continue to grow as a result of the uncertain economy and the recent devastation of Superstorm Sandy. I have every confidence that the steps we take today will help increase pro bono service and narrow the enormous access to justice gap in our state." 

Kurzon LLP currently represents three clients on a pro bono basis, each of which are not-for-profit organizations in the state of New York. We applaud this rule change and the reform efforts of Chief Judge Lippman. 

More information concerning the new reporting requirements is available at www.nycourts.gov/attorneys/probono.

One Law School Seems to Still Have Money to Sue its Critics

by Kurzon LLP on 02/01/13

It was just reported in the New York Times how law schools have declining application levels near a thirty-year low.  Presumably, this means less tuition money and hence less revenue. Maybe this will lead to cut-backs in lucrative salaries for deans of these fine institutions. But one law school, Thomas M. Cooley Law School, still has enough money presumably to keep suing us. The Honorable United States District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain allowed us to file our amended verified complaint today alleging claims of defamation, prima facie tort and anti-SLAPP (violation of New York's Civil Rights Law 70-A et. seq.). The action will be stayed, however, pending dispositive motions before the Honorable United States District Court Judge Robert James Jonker in the Western District of Michigan. What are your thoughts? Please share on our Facebook page.  

Ten Law Schools Predicted to Close in the Next Decade - Is this Enough?

by Kurzon LLP on 01/31/13

Since we wrote our open letter to Chief Judge Lippman, the New York Times reported yesterday a prediction that with declining applications to the nation's law schools, ten are likely to close over the next decade. We certainly hope so.  And it cannot happen soon enough. We appreciate reform discussions such as Chief Judge Lippman recently considering the idea of only requiring law school to be two years instead of three


The nations' 202 ABA approved law schools are mostly not-for-profit corporations, which are regulated by attorney generals and the Internal Revenue Service. They are supposed to be run for the benefit of everyone, but are they really?. We agree with the Boston Sunday Globe, which wrote on January 20, 2013 that "both should take a hard  look at New England Law" in reference to their Dean's salary of over $800,000 per year and the need for the MA Attorney General and the IRS to scrutinize the New England Law School's Board's decision to pay the dean such an exorbitant amount while its graduates struggle.  

However, let's not scapegoat New England Law, let's take a hard look at other schools that perpetuate a similar #Scam of high tuition fueled by taxpayer sponsored debt that only leads to law graduates with an average of $125,000 in debt and dismal or no job prospects. Can you imagine a CEO of a public company lasting as long as these law deans who regularly make over $500,000 per year with disastrous results for their graduates, a scheme only perpetrated with the help of millions of dollars in advertising (also fueled by tax-payer financed student tuition dollars)? Are the boards of these law schools asleep, complacent or just stupid?

Fortunately, since the time we filed class actions against Thomas M. Cooley Law School and New York Law School, the ABA now believes in truth in advertising and the law schools are no longer allowed to report their bogus post-graduate employment results.

Thankfully the market seems to be self-correcting as prospective law students wise up to the game. However, we would like to see more aggressive action by regulators to hold law deans and their boards accountable for their game of high salaries, high advertising budgets, high tuition and then no jobs. The game is hopefully almost over for some of these schools as the market will simply not support it. The ABA (also a "not-for-profit" that derives its delegated powers from the highest court of each state), the IRS and each state's attorney general should ask why are they protecting these Deans' high salaries and not the more vulnerable members of our society who are those young graduates just starting their careers with an average of $125,000 in non-bankruptcy dischargeable debt and truly dismal job prospects.

Lawyers, Heed Your Own Advice and Write it Down

by Kurzon LLP on 12/19/12

The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts recently amended its rules of professional conduct (as of January 1, 2013) to require lawyers to clearly communicate their fees to clients in writing. See an article by Bar Counsel Constance V. Vecchione, Counsel to the Mass. Board of Bar Overseers explaining the change. Long gone are the days when lawyers could send an invoice to their clients reading “For Professional Services Rendered” and then the amount owing. Clients deserve to know how much they are being charged and for what. In New York, Rule 1.5 does not require that the fee agreement be in writing (except in a few instances such as contingency fee matters or domestic relations matters). Rule 1.5(b) in New York reads in part:

A lawyer shall communicate to a client the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible. This information shall be communicated to the client before or within a reasonable time after commencement of the representation and shall be in writing where required by statute or court rule.

Hat tip to Massachusetts for amending the rule to make it clear that lawyers should heed their own advice. Write it down, good counselor, for everyone’s sake. 

On the Failing Legal Academy

by Kurzon LLP on 10/19/12

Thousands of law school graduates are graduating each year now saddled with a lifetime of debt that they may never be able to repay. This is a scam on taxpayers (who will bear the brunt of having federally guaranteed loans not repaid) and those eager students who dream of becoming a lawyer. We believe that the American Bar Association (ABA) has failed in its duties to new law graduates and that this failure is a result of its inability to properly regulate law schools. We have made a plea to the New York Court of Appeals to establish a task force to better regulate the legal academy. We use Thomas M. Cooley Law School as an example in our letter, as we believe them to be one of the worst offenders. 

KURZON
LLP
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