Rule 8(e) of the Admission to Practice Rules allows emeritus/pro bono membership and provides a limited license for retired attorneys to practice on a volunteer basis for a qualified legal services provider.
Attorneys admitted to the practice of law in a state (including Washington), territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia may apply to the Board of Governors for a limited license to practice as an emeritus attorney. Attorneys must be fully retired from the practice of law.
Prior to engaging in practice as a pro bono/emeritus attorney, attorneys must complete a training course as provided by the Board of Governors.
Pro bono/emeritus attorneys may provide legal services for no fee through a qualified legal services provider or serving as an unpaid governing or advisory board member or trustee of a qualified legal services provider.
A “qualified legal services provider” is a non-profit legal services organization whose primary purpose is to provide legal services to low-income clients.
Qualified legal services providers may reimburse an emeritus attorney for actual expenses incurred while rendering legal services and may be entitled to receive all court awarded attorney’s fees for any representation rendered by the emeritus member.
Pro bono/emeritus attorneys are subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct, and to all other laws and rules governing lawyers admitted to the Washington Bar.
Pro bono/emeritus attorneys are required to pay the Washington State Bar Association an annual license fee that is required of inactive members but are not required to comply with the CLE requirements. Attorneys have to report to the Washington Bar Association a change in membership status in any jurisdiction where the applicant has been admitted.
Application and Certification
Attorneys must apply by filing an Application. The application includes:
- Satisfactory proof of admission by exam to the practice of law and current good standing in any state, territory of the United States, or the District of Columbia.
- For attorneys admitted in Washington, satisfactory proof of active legal experience, as defined by Rule 3(b), for at least five of the past 10 years immediately preceding the filing of the application. For attorneys admitted in other jurisdictions, the attorneys must have practiced for 10 of the past 15 years.
- Filing certification from a qualified legal services provider that the applicant’s practice of law complies with the terms of the pro bono/emeritus rules.
- Comply with applicable training requirements.
- Pay the applicable fee.
If a disciplinary sanction has been imposed on the attorney with 15 years immediately preceding the filing of the application, the Board of Governors has the discretion to accept or reject the application.
Upon approval, attorneys must take the oath and pay the current year’s annual membership fee that is required of inactive members.
Emeritus status is valid for one year and is subject to annual renewal.
The limited license is automatically terminated when the attorney’s practice fails to comply with limited practice requirements, the attorney fails to comply with the terms of the pro bono/emeritus rules, or upon suspension or disbarment in another jurisdiction. Attorneys must report to the Washington Bar Association a change in membership status in any jurisdiction where the applicant has been admitted.
If the attorney was previously admitted to practice in Washington, the attorney will be transferred to inactive membership status upon termination.