Slavery alive and well in the US

I saw this first on the Freakonomics blog. 

Starting next year, New York will become the first state to require lawyers to perform unpaid work before being licensed to practice, the state’s chief judge announced on Tuesday, describing the rule as a way to help the growing number of people who cannot afford legal services.

The approximately 10,000 lawyers who apply to the New York State Bar each year will have to demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of pro bono work to be admitted, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. He said the move was intended to provide about a half-million hours of badly needed legal services to those with urgent problems, like foreclosure and domestic violence.

I understand that 50 hours really isn’t very much when all is said and done, but singling out a single profession and making them work for free really isn’t anything else BUT slavery. As mentioned in the blog I linked to, I imagine that there will be all sorts of unintended consequences from this, possibly having it contribute to the lawyer shortage. What will they do then? Up it to 100 hours free? 200? Once the precedent is in place, it makes it very easy to be abused later. As a carpenter, if the state required me to do 50 hours of unpaid work (say, because of a recent storm that had hit), I would be furious. 

I bet we’ll see a surge in lawyers taking their bar exam in New Jersey. 


2 responses to “Slavery alive and well in the US”

  1. allaboutbabystewart says :

    I completely agree! If the lawyers were smart they’d contest the constitutionality of this stupid law!

    • The Existential Christian says :

      Well, I have no doubt that the law would be upheld as constitutional; the hours are being used as a requirement for your license, and so they can pretty much make you do whatever you want because of how the Commerce Clause has already been interpreted.
      However it seems like its a fine example of the state simply taking advantage of a group of people, albeit a group that isn’t entirely popular. I would be very surprised if this didn’t eventually expand to include more experienced lawyers when they renew their licenses and if the hours didn’t increase.

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