Multijurisdictional practice rules pose a significant obstacle for many in-house attorneys participating in pro bono activities. Numerous in-house attorneys, though admitted and in good standing in one or more U.S. jurisdictions, are not licensed in the states in which they currently work. The practice rules in all but a few states permit in-house counsel licensed in other U.S. jurisdictions to represent their in-state employer, often through a registration or similar certification process, but many of these rules limit representation to the employer-client. Some states provide pro bono exemptions, allowing non-locally licensed in-house counsel (“registered in-house counsel”) to provide pro bono. However, a large number do not expressly permit these lawyers to practice in pro bono matters. And many of those jurisdictions that do subject registered in-house counsel to a number of restrictions, such as mandating that pro bono legal services be provided only in association with an approved organization or under the supervision of a locally licensed lawyer.
In recent years, a number of states have re-evaluated their rules and amended them to reduce or eliminate limitations on in-house pro bono service. More states are following suit. Currently, four jurisdictions have adopted provisions that eliminate restrictions and permit registered in-house counsel to engage in pro bono broadly while protecting clients and requiring lawyer competency –Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
In-house attorneys and legal departments interested in joining the effort to change the rules in other jurisdictions, should contact CPBO.