Illinois Pro Bono

Rule 756(j) of the Rules on Admission and Discipline of Attorneys was recently amended and allows inactive, retired, and out-of-state attorneys to provide pro bono legal services.

Attorneys must provide legal services without the charge or expectation of a fee, to persons of limited means or to qualifying organizations, and under the auspices of a sponsoring non-profit legal services organization, government entity, law school clinic program, or bar association.

“Pro bono legal services” means the delivery of legal services or the provision of training without charge or expectation of a fee. This includes:

  • Legal services rendered to persons of limited means.
  • Legal services to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental or educational organizations in matters designed to address the needs of persons of limited means.
  • Legal services to charitable, religious, civic, or community organizations in matter that further the organizational purpose.
  • Training intended to benefit legal service organizations or attorneys who provide pro bono services.

Pro bono legal services to persons of limited means refer to persons whose household incomes that are below the federal poverty standard but also to persons referred to as the “working poor.”

In fee cases, the attorney’s billable hours may be deemed pro bono when the client and attorney agree that further services will be provided voluntarily. Legal services that are expected, but are not collectable, do not qualify as pro bono legal services. Attorneys do not need to undertake an investigation to determine client eligibility, but only a good-faith determination of client eligibility.

Sponsoring Organizations
Organizations are required to submit to the Administrator an application identifying the qualifying nature of the organization and describing any program for pro bono services that the entity sponsors and in which the attorney may participate.

Application and Certification
Attorneys are required to submit a statement to the Administrator that the attorney is inactive, retired, or a house counsel attorney participating in a pro bono legal services program with verification from the sponsoring organization that the attorney is participating under the auspices of that organization. The attorney’s statement must agree and verify that he or she will participate in any training required by the sponsoring organization, and that he or she will notify the Administrator within 30 days of ending participation in a pro bono program.

Attorneys must also verify the program will provide malpractice insurance for volunteers and that the sponsoring organization will notify the Administrator when an attorney has ended his or her participation in the program.

Annual Registration of Attorneys on Retired Status
Retired attorneys seeking to provide pro bono services must register on an annual basis but are not required to pay a registration fee.

Authorization Renewal
Attorneys may renew the authorization on an annual basis by submitting a statement that he or she continues to participate in a qualifying program. Attorneys must also submit verification from the sponsoring organization that the attorney continues to participate in the program under the organization’s auspices and that the attorney has taken part in any training required by the program. Sponsoring organizations must describe any changes in programs where the attonreys participate.

Inactive and retired attorneys are exempt from MCLE requirements but have to participate in training as required by the sponsoring organization.

Authorization continues until the end of the calendar year unless the attorney or sponsoring organization ends participation in the program and notifies the Administrator.