Details are sketchy, but New York state appears to be about to initiate a program requiring its 10,000 annual applicants to the bar to demonstrate 50 hours of supervised pro bono work as a prerequisite. [NY Times; Justice Lippman speech]
My view is that this proposal imposing a tax on attorneys is preferable to proposals taxing a broader tax base for the same thing under the guise of "civil Gideon." (More preferable still would be to make the requirement a substitute for, rather than in addition to, barriers to entry like the bar exam and CLE requirements.) On the other hand, fifty hours of an inexperienced attorney is perhaps comparable to twenty hours of an experienced attorney's work, so one questions how much of a gap this requirement will close. My greater concern is that the breadth of pro bono will be inconsistently applied to permit attorneys to engage in societally counterproductive activity characterized as "pro bono," but that a double standard will preclude work for the Institute for Justice or Center for Individual Rights.
(If, however, "work for a non-profit" can be out of state, I am happy to take requests to provide the Center for Class Action Fairness LLC.fifty hours of pro bono work. CCAF is not affiliated with the Manhattan Institute.)