Pro bono opportunities for retired lawyers

Before we discuss finding resources for pro bono opportunities for retired lawyers, we should be clear on my definition of the term. For this article, “retired lawyers” include anyone not actively engaged in the practice of law regardless if they are registered with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission as an “active” lawyer or as an “inactive” or “retired” attorney as described in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(a)(5) & (a)(6). For a discussion of the different attorney registration statuses under Rule 756, see my article, The Alternatives to Registering for the “Active“ Practice of Law, Senior Lawyers Newsletter, Oct. 2016, vol. 8, no. 1.

Obviously, lawyers that are registered as active attorneys do not need to do anything special to perform pro bono legal services. For the inactive or retired lawyers, Rule 756(k)(1) explains the procedure for the “Authorization to Provide Pro Bono Services” as follows:

An attorney who is registered as inactive or retired under Rule 756(a)(5) or (a)(6), or an attorney who is admitted in another state and is not disbarred or otherwise suspended from practice in any jurisdiction shall be authorized to provide pro bono legalservices under the following circumstances:

(a) without charge or an expectation of a fee by the attorney;
(b) to persons of limited means or to organizations, as defined in paragraph (f) of this rule; and
(c) under the auspices of a sponsoring entity, which must be a not-for-profit legal services organization, governmental entity, law school clinical program, or bar association providing pro bono legal services as defined in paragraph (f)(1) of this rule.

Rule 756(k)(2) goes on to explain the duties of sponsoring organizations including, among other things, the duty to provide appropriate training, support and malpractice insurance for volunteers, and the duty to notify the Administrator that the participating attorney has ended his or her participation.

Rule 756(k)(3) sets forth the procedure for an attorney who has registered as inactive or retired, or an attorney who is admitted in another state but not in Illinois, to provide pro bono services under Rule 756. The attorney is required to submit a statement to the Administrator indicating a desire to provide pro bono services, along with a verification from a sponsoring entity or entities that the attorney will be participating in a pro bono program under the auspices of that entity. The authorization continues until the end of the calendar year in which the statement and verification are submitted. Rule 756(k)(4) permits an attorney to renew the authorization on an annual basis by submitting a statement that he or she continues to participate in a qualifying program, along with verification from the sponsoring entity that the attorney continues to participate in such a program under the entity’s auspices and that the attorney has taken part in any training required by the program.

In addition to doing a good deed, there is the additional benefit that the provisions of Rule 791 exempting “inactive or retired” attorneys from MCLE requirements continue to apply to these attorneys who are authorized to provide pro bono services under Rule 756, except that these attorneys shall participate in training required by the sponsoring entity. However, a “retired” status attorney must register on an annual basis, but is not required to pay a registration fee.

The need for lawyers to provide pro bono services is well documented, such as in The Need for Pro Bono & How You Can Help by Michael Bergmann and Karen Munoz in the Elder Law newsletter (Nov. 2015, vol. 21 no. 1). In order to encourage attorneys to volunteer, Illinois Legal Aid Online has created a Virtual Advice Clinic that enables lawyers to provide pro bono advice from anywhere they can login. See Pro Bono Anywhere, by Nicole Capretta, Senior Lawyers Newsletter, Feb 2018, vol. 9, no,2. Ms. Capretta provides a website for lawyers to search for pro bono opportunities, www.IllinoisLegalAid.org. If you are interested in becoming an Online Legal Answers Volunteer send Ms. Capretta an email at ncapretta@illinoislegalaid.org.

Pro bono opportunities are also listed for Chicago and outside of Chicago on the website for the Illinois Courts under “Legal Community” on the left hand side of the first page, www.illinoiscourts.gov. This link will connect you to a Pro Bono Opportunity Guide created by the Chicago Bar Foundation.

An example from my circuit of one of the opportunities listed is the Self-Represented Litigants Help Desk for Peoria and Tazewell Counties. Attorneys can sign-up for a two-hour shift and meet with clients for 30-minute appointments for brief advice or other limited scope representation. There is no ongoing representation beyond the help desk which means no litigation for those who no longer have access to electronic filing. The typical legal issues at the help desk include family law, eviction, mortgage foreclosure and orders of protection.
This program is sponsored by the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) which is a statewide organization that connects lawyers with those in need of free legal services. PILI also sponsors in some counties a Conflict of Interest Pro Bono Referral Panel and statewide the Armed Forces Legal Aid Network Veteran Pro Bono Referral program. For more information on PILI and to sign up for an opportunity near you go to: http://pili.org/pro-bono/opportunities

In conclusion, all retired lawyers regardless of their registration status can find a pro bono opportunity by checking the above websites. Good luck in finding an opportunity that enables you to continue to contribute to your community.

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January 2019Volume 10Number 2PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)