New York State Takes Pro Bono to the Next Level

New York State announced this week that all new attorneys will be required to do 50 hours of pro bono to earn the right to practice law in our great state. It will generate an estimated 500,000 hours of additional pro bono services per year.

Being a lawyer isn't simply a job. It is a critical role in our society and a cornerstone of our democracy. By starting their careers doing public service, new lawyers will begin their journey with a humble reminder that while they may be paid by an employer, they have a greater responsibility to the community.

Doctors share this responsibility. If someone is hurt on the street, we expect that a doctor would help them -- regardless of their ability to pay. Being a doctor is also more than a job, it is a privileged role in our society that comes with great responsibility.

Doctors and lawyers have been around for centuries and their role in society has evolved over time. They face regular challenges to the integrity of their role but it remains at the core of their work.

Today, newer professions, many only formally emerging in the last century, are beginning to see that they too need to reflect on their role in society. Marketing, IT, design, management -- these professions are relatively new to the working world. They have emerged largely as commercial professions with allegiance solely to their employers. But that is beginning to change.

Organizations are increasingly recognized as the building blocks of our nation. They have in many cases more rights, power and voice than individuals. Further to this idea, professionals working in marketing, IT, design and management functions are, in effect, organizational doctors. They help organizations stay healthy and heal them when they are sick.

In a society where organizations play such a vital role, should organizational medical care only be available to large, wealthy companies?

At the Taproot Foundation, we believe that it is time for these new professions to join the ranks of doctors and lawyers. It is time for them to embrace a greater responsibility to society and recognize that our democracy now depends on them serving more than just the wealthiest organizations, but those that are working for the good of our society as well.