Building A Pro Bono Network To Serve New Yorkers In Their Time Of Need

By Brendan Kennedy

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As a lifelong advocate for providing access to justice for all New Yorkers, former Chief Judge of New York Jonathan Lippman was recently asked to lead the partnership between the New York State Unified Court System and the New York State Bar Association to build a network of pro bono lawyers in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Lippman, the most recent guest on the Miranda Warnings podcast, talks about why this network is so critical, how lawyers can get involved, and what types of legal services will be needed.

The pro bono network partnership announced by the court and NYSBA will deal with anticipated and current challenges, so that lawyers in this statewide network, can be dispatched to areas and to individuals that have legal needs but cannot afford legal services.

Lippman who served as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals from 2009-2015, where he fought for improving access to justice for the poor and underserved, is very much looking forward to spearheading this initiative.

“This is very much in my wheelhouse,” he told show host David Miranda. “This is the kind of thing I built my professional career around. To me, there is nothing more important for lawyers than ensuring that everyone gets their day in court, that everyone gets equal justice, and that justice can’t be about the amount of money in your pocket or the color of your skin.”

As the coronavirus and subsequent stay-at-home orders remain intact, Lippman expects to see a surge in legal challenges not only due to the devastating effects the pandemic is having on people but also because the courts are still adjusting to getting virtual proceedings up and running.

Citing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call to retired healthcare professionals to volunteer to be ‘reserved corps’ as the impetus behind the formation of this network, Lippman says he will enlist help from all stakeholders in the legal community, from BigLaw firms and law school deans to local and affinity bar associations and legal service providers.

The podcast closes with a discussion about how in a short time the network will have its own website, where lawyers interested in volunteering can be directed to areas of need. But for the time being Lippman encourages any lawyer interested in or currently doing pro bono work, to reach out to NYSBA.

 

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