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New ABA Model Rule Impacts In-House Pro Bono

During the 2008 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in New York, the ABA adopted Model Rule 112A, concerning Registration of In-House Counsel.  This resolution, although a small step for the world of pro bono in general, made huge strides for the in-house legal community’s ability to perform pro bono legal services.

Many legal departments are composed of attorneys who are admitted to practice law in one state and subsequently transfer to another state to work.  Attorneys in this position frequently choose not to take the bar again because the client is still located in the previous state.  This presents an obstacle to pro bono practice because these attorneys are not licensed to practice in the state in which they resided.  To remedy this situation, the ABA adopted Model Rule 112A, a model registration to make it easier for in-house counsel to do pro bono work.  Please note section C, which states “A lawyer registered under this section is authorized to provide pro bono legal services through an established not-for-profit bar association, pro bono program or legal services program or through such organizations specifically authorized in this jurisdiction.”

The proposed language was well-debated during the ABA House of Delegates meeting on Monday, August 11 and Tuesday, August 12.  Paula Boggs, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Law and Corporate Affairs of Starbucks Coffee Company, a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge℠ Signatory, and Esther F. Lardent, President and CEO of the Pro Bono Institute – both members of the House of Delegates – spoke in support of the proposed rule.  Furthermore, both defended the rule when it was challenged by another member of the House.

To address this ongoing issue, Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a joint initiative between the Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel, has put together a working group on multi-jurisdictional practice with in-house lawyers from various jurisdictions.  This group is working to ensure that in-house attorneys who are not licensed in the jurisdiction where they reside and work will have the support that they need to do pro bono work.  To get more information on this working group and all of CPBO’s efforts to promote pro bono services, please contact CPBO Director, Eve Runyon, at erunyon@probonoinst.org.


Developed by Corporate Pro Bono
A global partnership project of the Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel