Retired out-of-state attorneys are allowed to provide pro bono services in association with an approved legal services organization under the Emeritus Attorney Program.
An “emeritus attorney” is any person, retired from the active practice of law, who is or was admitted to practice law in Texas, any other state or territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia. Emeritus attorneys must:
- Have been engaged in the active practice of law for a minimum of five of the past ten years immediately preceding the application.
- Have been a member in good standing of the Texas Bar or where admitted and cannot have been disciplined for professional misconduct by the bar or courts of any jurisdiction within the past 15 years.
- If not a retired member of the Texas Bar, the attorney must have graduated from an ABA accredited law school and cannot have failed the Texas bar exam three or more times.
- Agree to abide by the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility and submit to the jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Bar for disciplinary purposes.
An “approved legal assistance organization” is a non-profit legal assistance organization that is approved by the Texas Supreme Court. A legal assistance organization seeking approval from the Texas Supreme Court must file a petition with the Clerk of the Texas Supreme Court certifying that it is a non-profit organization. The petition must state with specificity:
- The structure of the organization and whether it accepts funds from clients.
- The major sources of funds used by the organization.
- The criteria used to determine potential clients’ eligibility for legal services performed by the organization.
- The types of non-legal service performed by the organization.
- The names of all members of the Texas Bar who are employed by the organization or who regularly perform legal work for the organization.
- The existence and extent of malpractice insurance that will cover the emeritus attorney.
Emeritus attorneys, in association with an approved legal assistance organization and under the supervision of a supervising attorney, may perform the following activities:
- Appear in any court or before any administrative tribunal or arbitrator in Texas on behalf of a client of an approved legal assistance organization if the client consents in writing to that appearance and a supervising attorney provides written approval for that appearance. The written consent and approval must be filed in the record and brought to the attention of a judge or presiding officer.
- Prepare pleadings and other documents to be filed in any court or before any administrative tribunal or arbitrator in Texas in any matter in where the emeritus attorney is involved. The supervising attorney must sign the pleadings.
- Render legal advice and perform other appropriate legal services. The emeritus attorney must consult with and obtain express content from the supervising attorney prior the activities.
- Engage in such other preparatory activities as are necessary for any matter in which he or she is involved.
The presiding judge, hearing officer, or arbitrator may, in her or his discretion, determines the extent of the emeritus attorney’s participation in any proceeding. Emeritus attorney must perform all activities under the direct supervision of a supervising attorney.
Emeritus attorneys cannot represent themselves to be active members of the Texas Bar or as being licensed to practice law in Texas and cannot ask for nor receive compensation of any kind for the legal services to be rendered. Approved legal assistance organizations may reimburse the attorney for actual expenses incurred, may charge for its services as otherwise proper, and are entitled to receive all court-awarded attorney’s fees for any representation rendered by the emeritus attorney.
A “supervising attorney” is an active member of the Texas Bar who directs and supervises an emeritus attorney. Supervising attorneys must:
- Be employed or be a participating volunteer for an approved legal assistance organization.
- Assume personal professional responsibility for supervising the conduct of the litigation, administrative proceeding, or other legal services where the emeritus attorney participates.
- Assist the emeritus attorney in his preparation to the extent that the supervisory attorney considers necessary.
Application and Certification
In order to obtain Certification, attorneys must file with the Clerk of the Texas Supreme Court the following:
- Employer Affidavit. A certification by an approved legal assistance organization stating that the emeritus attorney is currently associated with the organization and that an attorney employed by or participating as a volunteer with that organization will assume the duties of the supervising attorney.
- A certificate from the highest court or agency in the state, territory, or district where the emeritus attorney previously has been licensed to practice law, certifying that the attorney has fulfilled the requirements of active bar membership and has a clear disciplinary record.
- Attorney Affidavit. A sworn statement by the emeritus attorney that he or she has read and is familiar with the Texas Code of Professional Responsibility as adopted by the Supreme Court of Texas and will abide by the provisions thereof, submits to the jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court Texas Bar for disciplinary purposes, as defined by Article 10 of the Rules, and will neither ask for nor receive compensation of any kind for the legal services.
Permission to practice terminates immediately upon the filing with the Clerk of the Texas Supreme Court a notice from:
- The approved legal assistance organization that states:
- The emeritus attorney has ceased to be associated with the organization, which must be filed within five days of when the association ceased; or
- The approved legal assistance organization may withdraw the certification at any time without stating cause.
- The Texas Supreme Court, in its discretion, at any time, stating that permission to perform services under this article may be revoked.
The Texas Supreme Court or the approved legal assistance organization may withdraw the certification at any time without stating the cause.
If an emeritus attorneys’ certification is withdrawn, for any reason, the supervising attorney must immediately file a notice of such action in the official file of each matter pending before any court or tribunal where the attorney was involved.