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Having worked on jury reform matters with them, Michael Rothenberg has strong faith in the ultimate success of the two New Yorkers responsible for leading the effort toward a statewide pro bono system: Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Juanita Bing Newton, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives. Of last June’s first of four state convocations on the matter, said Rothenberg, executive director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, “I hadn’t been aware that certain states [Maryland, Florida and Indiana] had adopted pro bono reporting requirements. Where that’s happened, those states have seen great increases in pro bono service. Now that is certainly worth studying for New York.” Rothenberg’s optimistic view was echoed by his counterparts at agencies that broker pro bono projects with private law firms. But with three more convocations to go — in upstate venues this October and November — a written proposal for some formal structure is at least many months off. And the bottom line discussion of money has only barely begun. “Volunteer lawyers are wonderful and glorious, but they cost money to care for and feed,” said William J. Dean, executive director of Volunteers of Legal Service. “Pro bono programs require some sort of support from nonprofit organizations — to help identify cases, train lawyers, mentor lawyers and to provide training materials.” In his opening remarks at the June convocation, held at the Fordham University School of Law, New York City Corporate Counsel Michael Cardozo said such money would not be forthcoming from government at any level. During the afternoon session, Dean broached the subject of the scarce availability of foundation funds. “I mumbled something about it,” he said, “and wise heads nodded.” FOUNDATIONS AFFECTED Unhappily, the downward slide of the stock market following last year’s terrorist attacks and this year’s corporate and accounting scandals has severely affected the fortunes of charitable foundations. According to an article last week in The New York Times, for instance, stock portfolio returns are down 50 percent at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; 40 percent at the Lilly Endowment; and 30 percent at the Ford Foundation. Nevertheless, foundations are the logical source of revenues, according to Frederick P. Rooney, director of the Community Legal Resource Network at City University of New York School of Law. “We have to look to foundations, we have to make them aware of a dire situation,” said Rooney, who is also a general practice attorney at the Bethlehem, Pa., firm Rooney, Mannicci & Gardner. Chief Judge Kaye and Judge Newton have repeatedly spoken forcefully of the dire situation. Rothenberg suggested that such force has shown considerable impact. With reference to jury reform, once considered an intractable problem, he said, “I’ve seen what they can accomplish.” And clearly, Rothenberg added, private bar interest in pro bono lawyering has increased since Sept. 11. “I personally believe that interest will continue,” he said. “We’re all casting a larger net [at private firms], and attorneys who have never done pro bono before are having the same experience as others who have. The recidivism rate, if you will, is going to be high.” Rooney and Dean agree. They also agree on the need of looking at the bottom line. For solo and small-firm lawyers taking their first steps into the world of pro bono, said Rooney, “It’s going to be hard, especially when they’re struggling to keep their practices afloat and they’ve got rent and Con Ed bills to pay.” Dean added, “This [statewide pro bono structure] is a worthy goal. But talk has to be backed up by money. The worst thing we could do is to set up a system that’s doomed to failure.”

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