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Virus-Related Legal Disputes Spur N.Y. Push for Free Advice (1)

March 30, 2020, 3:18 PM

Lawyers in New York are trying to expand access to free legal advice during an expected increase in coronavirus-related disputes.

The state bar association and court system said in a statement Monday that they are putting together a network of pro bono lawyers that can respond to legal issues arising out of the pandemic, especially those affecting people who can’t afford to hire an attorney.

“Experts are already predicting a surge in a wide variety of cases as a result of the coronavirus crisis and aggressive steps taken to combat it,” Janet DiFiore, New York’s chief judge, said in the statement. “Though the state’s legal community is being hit hard by the economic fallout of this virus, there is no doubt in my mind that many attorneys will heed our call for volunteers. We are New Yorkers, and we take care of one another in tough times.”

The courts and the New York State Bar will start by organizing meetings with local bar associations, the deans of New York’s 15 law schools, big law firms, legal clinics and others, they said.

“With New York City as the epicenter of the pandemic and the economy at a standstill, we are facing unprecedented legal challenges that will transform the profession and society as we know it,” said Henry M. Greenberg, president of the New York State Bar Association.

Pent-up legal issues involving poor New Yorkers will emerge “like a dam bursting once the virus subsides” and courts are able to get back to work on non-emergency matters, Greenberg said in a telephone interview.

Most of the legal problems will probably be landlord-tenant disputes, debt collection and issues with insurers, he said.

Greenberg said he hopes New York’s effort to expand access to free legal advice will be a model for other states.

(Updates with details from Greenberg statement.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at

Steve Stroth

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