Another proposed incentive would provide one hour of CLE credit for every six hours of pro bono worked up to six credits, as Delaware allows. Retired lawyers who do pro bono are already exempt from registration fees. The proposal would cause the necessary form to be automatically mailed to all lawyers over 55.
The task force seeks more than rule changes from the judiciary. It wants the state Supreme Court to set up an "Access to Justice Commission," along the lines of those in 34 other states, to provide an ongoing structure for high-level court engagement.
It also suggests that judges get more involved in promoting pro bono by recruiting and training lawyers for pro bono, recognizing their efforts and giving docket preferences to participating lawyers. It proposes adopting a version of Rule 3.7(B) of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which spells out what judges may do to promote pro bono.
LSNJ, on the other hand, says that approach might be right in other states but not here. It cites the view of LSNJ board member Douglas Eakeley, a former board chairman of the national Legal Services Corp., that New Jersey needs no commission because of "the nationally recognized achievements and cohesion of the New Jersey Legal Services system."
That statewide system "provides assistance in every significant type of legal problem affecting the poor" as well as training, research and electronic forums, and collaborates with other groups and pro bono advocates, LSNJ says, adding that the Supreme Court already has an Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness.
LSNJ also opposes adopting the ABA rule, saying it represents "a distinctly different direction from New Jersey's most-stringent-in-the-country Codes of Judicial Conduct" and the idea requires "far more deliberation and consideration, by a group very different from the task force."
Aside from Poritz, the LSNJ board includes retired Justices James Coleman, Alan Handler, Virginia Long, John Wallace Jr. and James Zazzali.
The task force recommends a wide web portal designed to make it easier for attorneys, especially those at firms without pro bono coordinators, to find pro bono work that suits their abilities and interests and to obtain information about training and other events, download related apps and even share items of interest on social networking sites.
LSNJ already has something along those lines, as does the state bar. The task force suggests having the LSNJ site, www.probononj.org, serve as a statewide portal on a trial basis.
LSNJ's response is that it recently relaunched the site, which is now a "national paradigm" for such sites and that, like the old site, it is "open to all pro bono and kindred organizations."