By Nicolette E. Mendenhall, Indiana Department of Transportation
A few years have passed since the revisions were made to Rule 6.7 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct that now requires Indiana attorneys to report the number of pro bono hours they provide. Although pro bono service is not mandatory, as stated by the rules and their comments, it is a responsibility and obligation of all attorneys, including government attorneys, to provide pro bono services to those of limited means. Government attorneys are exempted from the pro bono reporting requirements only if they are “prohibited by statute, rule, regulation, or agency policy from providing legal services outside his or her employment.”
Many governmental offices do not have policies in place for their attorneys regarding pro bono services; the American Bar Association, as a part of its goal to increase pro bono services, urges federal, state and local government law offices to adopt policies and procedures that not only enable and encourage attorneys to engage in pro bono work but allows for the volunteering attorney to obtain case approval and a conflicts check. To help provide guidance to government agencies and to government attorneys, the ABA Center for Pro Bono and the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division offers an online publication, the Pro Bono Project Development: A Deskbook For Government and Public Sector Lawyers. This deskbook (soon to be updated) discusses and addresses various issues related to government attorney pro bono participation, such as the use of agency resources, restrictions on volunteering during office hours and conflicts of interest. It also provides sample pro bono policies from federal, state and local agencies across the United States and is a valuable tool for government offices that want to support pro bono work.
As government attorneys frequently do not have malpractice insurance policies, the risks associated with providing services may be a barrier for some. Fortunately, government attorneys who are members of the Indianapolis Bar Association receive malpractice insurance protection from IndyBar if they are volunteering in IndyBar pro bono programs, such as the Hospice Program, the Free Wills Clinic, ILAS Family Law Conflict Partnership, the Homeless Project, the Ask Lawyer events, or Legal Line. Providing pro bono services to the community through IndyBar is an excellent way to give back to the community, with the peace of mind that you are not endangering you and your family through volunteer work that deals with areas of law outside your expertise.
Helping those in need can be fulfilling and IndyBar is here to help make volunteering easy—whether you volunteer with the Hospice Program, the Free Wills Clinics, Ask a Lawyer, Legal Line and more—and the Government Practice Section urges its members to use the pro bono programs available to them at IndyBar. Get more information on IndyBar pro bono programs here and sign up to volunteer here.
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