September 9, 2009


Initiative provides opportunities for job seekers to hone skills while providing vital service

ALBANY -The New York State Bar Association, in conjunction with the New York State Unified Court System Office of Court Administration, announced a new pro bono clerkship program that provides lawyers seeking employment with the opportunity to clerk for judges in courts throughout the state, including the Appellate Divisions. The program, developed and spearheaded by the State Bar's Committee on Lawyers in Transition, will help lawyers develop new skills until they can find permanent employment, while providing vital assistance to a court system burdened with ever-increasing dockets.

"Every day, talented but unemployed attorneys - some fresh out of law school and others with years of experience but let go through downsizing - look for opportunities to sharpen their skills and develop professionally while they continue their job search. At the same time, judges from western New York to eastern Long Island require quality legal minds to help with their workload. This program is a terrific way to match these two needs perfectly," said President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "I want to thank Committee Chair Lauren Wachtler for her outstanding leadership in helping to provide this wonderful opportunity for these attorneys while furthering the State Bar's proud history of promoting pro bono service."

"Over the past year, I have spoken with many struggling attorneys who simply want to work. We are thrilled to partner with the Unified Court System on an initiative that will provide the courts with talented professionals who will give much-needed service while creating an extraordinary work opportunity for transitioning lawyers across the state," said Wachtler of New York (Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP). "I am confident that this program will be a terrific success and that the benefits will be mutual."

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said: "The Unified Court System is proud to partner with the New York State Bar Association to support both attorneys who have been adversely affected by the economy as well as the New York State courts.  The severe economic downturn has left many capable attorneys without a job.  This innovative new program offers unemployed lawyers the chance to apply their legal skills and experience by working with judges even as they continue their search for more permanent work."

Court clerks typically perform research, draft opinions and help prepare judges for conferences with opposing counsel. Lawyers interested in applying for the pro bono clerkship program must fill out an application on the Office of Court Administration Web site ( indicating the type of clerkship they are seeking (criminal, civil, family court etc.), the number of hours they can devote and the geographical location in which they would like to serve.  Once submitted, the information is channeled to a court where the applicant is best matched with a judge in need.  These are strictly pro bono opportunities and do not take away from positions that would be filled by paid court employees.

For further information, please visit the OCA Web site or go to the Lawyers in Transition Web site at

Chaired by Lauren J. Wachtler, the Committee on Lawyers in Transition was created in August 2006 by Past President Mark H. Alcott (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP of New York City) to provide resources and assistance to lawyers who are currently unemployed, looking to make a career change, leaving a current job or transitioning back into the workforce after time away from the legal profession.

The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.