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Pro bono work now required to practice law in New York

NEW YORK — The state’s chief judge on Wednesday announced the details of a new rule — the first of its kind in the nation — requiring law students to perform 50 hours of unpaid work as a condition of practicing in New York.

The rule requires law students to do pro bono work for the poor, nonprofit or civil rights groups or any of the three branches of government, between the first year of law school and the time they apply for a license.

The work can be performed anywhere in the world, but students must be under the supervision of a practicing lawyer, a judge or a member of a law school faculty. The rule goes into effect for new students in law schools Jan. 1.

When Judge Jonathan Lippman proposed the rule in May, some in the legal community said it might be burdensome for new lawyers in a tough economy. Others voiced concerns about using those new to the profession to fill what Lippman calls the justice gap: the growing number of people who cannot afford legal services.

But an advisory committee that formulated the final version of the rule answered some of those criticisms: Students have three years to complete the work and they must be under the counsel of more experienced lawyers.

—Mosi Secret, The New York Times

British government blocks disclosure of alleged spy links

A slow-moving effort to hold an inquest into the poisoning death of a Russian whistle-blower, Alexander V. Litvinenko, moved ahead Thursday with British authorities insisting in a preliminary hearing that possible contacts between him and the British secret intelligence service MI6 should not be disclosed.

Litvinenko, a former KGB officer and critic of the Russian authorities who had won asylum and citizenship in Britain, died in November 2006 after ingesting a rare radioactive isotope, polonium 210, from a teapot at a meeting with Russian contacts at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square in London.

Litvinenko’s death, coinciding with other strains between London and Moscow, chilled relations between Britain and Russia, leading to tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats reminiscent of the cold war. Russia’s refusal to hand over the man accused of killing Litvinenko has since stymied efforts to restore normal ties.

British prosecutors are seeking the extradition of the suspect, Andrei K. Lugovoi, another former KGB officer who was present at the meeting at the Millennium Hotel, to face murder charges. Lugovoi, who is now a member of the Russian Parliament, has denied any wrongdoing. Russian authorities say their Constitution forbids extradition of their own citizens.

—Alan Cowell, The New York Times