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O’Melveny’s Lash Co-Authors Law360 Article on Mandatory Pro Bono

April 23, 2014

O’Melveny & Myers counsel David Lash co-authored an article for the April 22, 2014, edition of Law360, titled “Mandatory Pro Bono Is Not the Answer for Practitioners.” The piece discusses the State Bar of California's recent decision to require attorneys to complete 50 hours of pro bono service to be eligible for admission. While applauding the intentions behind the requirement, the authors argue that mandates are not the best way to encourage members of the bar to undertake more pro bono work.

The authors point to a number of unintended consequences that could arise from such a mandate, including placing additional responsibilities on legal aid organizations that have already been forced to cut programs and staff; creating a significant burden for certain members of the bar, especially smaller in-house corporate legal departments with less physical and financial resources; and asking attorneys with no expertise to handle cases that require specialized knowledge, which could lead to malpractice.  By creating unintended controversy, a mandatory system could actually divert attention away from the responsibility to strive for equal access to justice for all, the authors suggest.

The article also discusses alternatives to a mandate, such as building a “civil Gideon” movement that would guarantee a paid counsel who would represent both criminal defendants and civil litigants.

Lash is managing counsel of O’Melveny’s public interest and pro bono services. He divides his time between the Firm’s Los Angeles and Century City offices.