Thursday, May 3, 2012

Linking Licensure to Mandatory Service

The 5/1/2012 New York Times reports that new lawyers in New York state must work 50 hours for free, on terms specified by the government in order to get their licenses to practice.

From the article:
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.
The Freakonomics Blog asks a very natural question: "What would happen if newly minted doctors were similarly seconded into pro-bono work?"

Given the anticipated upcoming physician shortage, I would not be surprised to see similar proposals mandating physician service as a requirement of medical licensure.

It might take the form of mandatory pro bono work or mandatory acceptance of Medicare/Medicaid patients. Both Canada and the state of Massachusetts have proposed variations in the past, although they were never enacted into law.

Or to paraphrase the old saying: "First they came for the lawyers. But I wasn't a lawyer so I didn't speak out..."