Search



Not a CBA Member? Join Now!
Find A Lawyer Directory
Find A Lawyer Directory

Calendars

Rule 6.1. Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service

RULE 6.1. VOLUNTARY PRO BONO PUBLICO SERVICE

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least fifty hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

(a) provide a substantial majority of the fifty hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:

(1) persons of limited means or

(2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and

(b) provide any additional legal or public services through:

(1) delivery of legal services at no fee or a substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;

(2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or

(3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means. Where constitutional, statutory or regulatory restrictions prohibit government and public sector lawyers or judges from performing the pro bono services outlined in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), those individuals should fulfill their pro bono publico responsibility by performing services or participating in activities outlined in paragraph (b).

COMMENT

[1] Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. Indeed, the oath that Colorado lawyers take upon admittance to the Bar requires that a lawyer will never "reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed." In some years a lawyer may render greater or fewer hours than the annual standard specified, but during the course of his or her legal career, each lawyer should render on average per year, the number of hours set forth in this Rule. Services can be performed in civil matters or in criminal or quasi-criminal matters for which there is no government obligation to provide funds for legal representation, such as post-conviction death penalty appeal cases.

[2] Paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) recognize the critical need for legal services that exists among persons of limited means by providing that a substantial majority of the legal services rendered annually to the disadvantaged be furnished without fee or expectation of fee. Legal services under these paragraphs consist of a full range of activities, including individual and class representation, the provision of legal advice, legislative lobbying, administrative rule making and the provision of free training or mentoring to those who represent persons of limited means.

[3] Persons eligible for legal services under paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) are those who qualify for participation in programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation and those whose incomes and financial resources are slightly above the guidelines utilized by such programs but nevertheless, cannot afford counsel. Legal services can be rendered to individuals or to organizations such as homeless shelters, battered women's centers and food pantries that serve those of limited means. The term "governmental organizations" includes, but is not limited to, public protection programs and sections of governmental or public sector agencies.

[4] Because service must be provided without fee or expectation of fee, the intent of the lawyer to render free legal services is essential for the work performed to fall within the meaning of paragraphs (a)(1) and (2). Accordingly, services rendered cannot be considered pro bono under paragraph (a) if an anticipated fee is uncollected, but the award of statutory lawyers' fees in a case originally accepted as pro bono would not disqualify such services from inclusion under this section. Lawyers who do receive fees in such cases are encouraged to contribute an appropriate portion of such fees to organizations or projects that benefit persons of limited means.

[5] While it is possible for a lawyer to fulfill the annual responsibility to perform pro bono services exclusively through activities described in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2), to the extent that any hours of service remain unfulfilled, the lawyer may satisfy the remaining commitment in a variety of ways as set forth in paragraph (b).

[6] Paragraph (b)(1) includes the provision of certain types of legal services to those whose incomes and financial resources place them above limited means. It also permits the pro bono lawyer to accept a substantially reduced fee for services. Examples of the types of issues that may be addressed under this paragraph include First Amendment claims, Title VII claims and environmental protection claims. Additionally, a wide range of organizations may be represented, including social service, medical research, cultural and religious groups.

[7] Paragraph (b)(2) covers instances in which lawyers agree to and receive a modest fee for furnishing legal services to persons of limited means. Acceptance of court appointments in which the fee is substantially below a lawyer's usual rate is encouraged under this section.

[8] Paragraph (b)(3) recognizes the value of lawyers engaging in activities that improve the law, the legal system or the legal profession. Serving on bar association committees, serving on boards of pro bono or legal services programs, taking part in Law Day activities, acting as a continuing legal education instructor, a mediator or an arbitrator and engaging in legislative lobbying to improve the law, the legal system or the profession are a few examples of the many activities that fall within this paragraph.

[9] Because the provision of pro bono services is a professional responsibility, it is the individual ethical commitment of each lawyer. However, in special circumstances, such as death penalty cases and class action cases, it is appropriate to allow collective satisfaction by a law firm of the pro bono responsibility. There may be times when it is not feasible for a lawyer to engage in pro bono services. At such times a lawyer may discharge the pro bono responsibility by providing financial support to organizations providing free legal services to persons of limited means. Such financial support should be reasonably equivalent to the value of the hours of service that would have otherwise been provided.

[10] Because the efforts of individual lawyers are not enough to meet the need for free legal services that exists among persons of limited means, the government and the profession have instituted additional programs to provide those services. Every lawyer should financially support such programs, in addition to either providing direct pro bono services or making financial contributions when pro bono service is not feasible.

[11] The responsibility set forth in this Rule is not intended to be enforced through disciplinary process.

Recommended Model Pro Bono Policy for Colorado Licensed Attorneys and Law Firms

Preface. Providing pro bono legal services to persons of limited means and organizations serving persons of limited means is a core value of Colorado licensed attorneys enunciated in Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1. Adoption of a law firm pro bono policy will commit the firm to this professional value and assure attorneys of the firm that their pro bono work is valued in their advancement within the firm.

The Colorado Supreme Court has adopted the following recommended Model Pro Bono Policy that can be modified to meet the needs of individual law firms. References are made to provisions that may not apply in a small firm setting. Adoption of such a policy is entirely voluntary.

At the least, a pro bono policy would:

(1) clearly set forth an aspirational goal for attorneys, as well as the number of hours for which billable credit will be awarded for firms that operate on a billable hour system (the attached model policy uses the figure of at least 50 hours per attorney per year, which mirrors the aspirational goal set out in Rule 6.1);

(2) demonstrate that pro bono service will be positively considered in evaluation and compensation decisions; and

(3) include a description of the processes that will be used to match attorneys with projects and monitor pro bono service, including tracking pro bono hours spent by lawyers and others in the firm.

The Colorado Supreme Court will recognize those firms that make a strong commitment to pro bono work by adopting a policy that includes:

(1) an annual goal of performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service by each Colorado licensed attorney in the firm, pro-rated for part-time attorneys, primarily for persons of limited means and/or organizations serving persons of limited means consistent with the definition of pro bono services as set forth in this Model Pro Bono Policy; and

(2) a statement that the firm will value at least 50 hours of such pro bono service per year by each Colorado licensed attorney in the firm, for all purposes of attorney evaluation, advancement, and compensation in the firm as the firm values compensated client representation.

The Colorado Supreme Court will also recognize on an annual basis those Colorado law firms that voluntarily advise the Court by February 15 that their attorneys, on average, during the previous calendar year, performed 50 hours of pro bono legal service, primarily for persons of limited means or organizations serving persons of limited means consistent with the definition of pro bono services as set forth in this Model Pro Bono Policy.

Table of Contents

Page

I. Introduction

II. Firm Pro Bono Committee/Coordinator

III. Pro Bono Services Defined

IV. Firm Recognition of Pro Bono Service

A. Performance Review and Evaluation

B. Credit For Pro Bono Legal Work

V. Administration of Pro Bono Service

A. Approval of Pro Bono Matters

B. Opening a Pro Bono Matter

C. Pro Bono Engagement Letter

D. Staffing of Pro Bono Matters

E. Supervision of Pro Bono Matters

F. Professional Liability Insurance

G. Paralegal Pro Bono Opportunities

H. Disbursements in Pro Bono Matter

I. Attorneys Fees in Pro Bono Matters

J. Departing Attorneys

VI. CLE Credit for Pro Bono Work

A. Amount of CLE Credit

B. How to Obtain CLE Credit

References

A. Preamble to the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct

B. Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1

C. Chief Justice Directive 98-01, Costs for Indigent Persons Civil Matters

D. Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 260.8

E. Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 260.8, Form 8

I. Introduction

The firm recognizes that the legal community has a unique responsibility to ensure that all citizens have access to a fair and just legal system. In recognizing this responsibility, the firm encourages each of its attorneys to actively participate in some form of pro bono legal representation.

This commitment mirrors the core principles enunciated in the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct:

A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Therefore, all lawyers should devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel. A lawyer should aid the legal profession in pursuing these objectives and should help the bar regulate itself in the public interest. . . . A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession and to exemplify the legal profession's ideals of public service. Preamble, Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct.

The firm understands there are various ways to provide pro bono legal services in our community. In selecting among the various pro bono opportunities, the firm encourages and expects that attorneys (both partners and associates or other designation) will devote a minimum of fifty (50) hours each year to pro bono legal services, or a proportional amount of pro bono hours by attorneys on alternative work schedules. In fulfilling this responsibility, firm attorneys should provide a substantial majority of the fifty (50) hours of pro bono legal services to (1) persons of limited means, or (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means. Rule 6.1. The firm strongly believes that this level of participation lets our attorneys make a meaningful contribution to our legal community, and provides important opportunities to further their professional development.

II. Firm Pro Bono Committee/Coordinator (see suggested change for small firms below)

The firm has established a Pro Bono Committee responsible for implementing and administering the firm's pro bono policies and procedures. The Pro Bono Committee consists of a representative group of attorneys of the firm. In addition, the firm has designated a Pro Bono Coordinator. The Pro Bono Committee/Pro Bono Coordinator has the following principal responsibilities:

1 encouraging and supporting pro bono legal endeavors;

2 reviewing, accepting and/or rejecting pro bono legal projects;

3 coordinating and monitoring pro bono legal projects, ensuring, among other things, that appropriate assistance, supervision and resources are available;

4 providing periodic reports on the firm's pro bono activities; and

5 creating and maintaining a pro bono matter tracking system.

Attorneys are encouraged to seek out pro bono matters that are of interest to them.

**[Small firms may wish to designate only a Pro Bono Coordinator and can introduce the above paragraph as follows: "The firm has designated a Pro Bono Coordinator responsible for implementing and administering the firm's pro bono policies and procedures" and then delete the next two sentences.]

III. Pro Bono Services Defined

The foremost objective of the firm pro bono policy is to provide legal services to persons of limited means and the nonprofit organizations that assist them, in accordance with Rule 6.1. The firm recognizes there are a variety of ways in which the firm's attorneys and paralegals can provide pro bono legal services in the community. The following, while not intended to be an exhaustive list, reflects the types of pro bono legal services the firm credits in adopting this policy:

A. Representation of Low Income Persons. Representation of individuals who cannot afford legal services in civil or criminal matters of importance to a client;

B. Civil Rights and Public Rights Law. Representation or advocacy on behalf of individuals or organizations seeking to vindicate rights with broad societal implications (class action suits or suits involving constitutional or civil rights) where it is inappropriate to charge legal fees; and

C. Representation of Charitable Organizations. Representation or counseling to charitable, religious, civic, governmental, educational, or similar organizations in matters where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly diminish the resources of the organization, with an emphasis on service to organizations designed primarily to meet the needs of persons of limited income or improve the administration of justice.

D. Community Economic Development. Representation of or counseling to micro-entrepreneurs and businesses for community economic development purposes, recognizing that business development plays a critical role in low income community development and provides a vehicle to help low income individuals to escape poverty;

E. Administration of Justice in the Court System. Judicial assignments, whether as pro bono counsel, or a neutral arbiter, or other such assignment, which attorneys receive from courts on a mandatory basis by virtue of their membership in a trial bar;

F. Law-related Education. Legal education activities designed to assist individuals who are low-income, at risk, or vulnerable to particular legal concerns or designed to prevent social or civil injustice.

G. Mentoring of Law Students and Lawyers on Pro Bono Matters. Colorado Supreme Court Rule 260.8 provides that an attorney who acts as a mentor may earn two (2) units of general credit per completed matter in which he/she mentors a law student. An attorney who acts as a mentor may earn one (1) unit of general credit per completed matter in which he/she mentors another lawyer. However, mentors shall not be members of the same firm or in association with the lawyer providing representation to the client of limited means.

Because the following activities, while meritorious, do not involve direct provision of legal services to the poor, the firm will not count them toward fulfillment of any attorney's, or the firm's, goal to provide pro bono legal services to persons of limited means or to nonprofits that serve such persons' needs: participation in a non-legal capacity in a community or volunteer organization; services to non-profit organizations with sufficient funds to pay for legal services as part of their normal expenses; client development work; non-legal service on the board of directors of a community or volunteer organization; bar association activities; and non-billable legal work for family members, friends, or members or staff of the firm who are not eligible to be pro bono clients under the above criteria.

IV. Firm Recognition of Pro Bono Service (see suggested change for small firms below).

A. Performance Review and Evaluation. The firm recognizes that the commitment to pro bono involves a personal expenditure of time. In acknowledgment of this commitment and to support firm goals, an attorney's efforts to meet this expectation will be considered by the firm in measuring various aspects of the attorney's performance, such as yearly evaluations and bonuses where applicable. An attorney's pro bono legal work will be subject to the same criteria of performance review and evaluation as those applied to client-billable work. As with all client work, there should be an emphasis on effective results for the client and the efficient and cost-effective use of firm resources.

B. Credit for Pro Bono Legal Work. The firm will give full credit for at least fifty (50) hours of pro bono legal services, and additional hours as approved by the Pro Bono Committee and/or Coordinator, in considering annual billable hour goals, bonuses and other evaluative criteria based on billable hours.

**[Small firms may wish to only include the following paragraph in lieu of the above provisions: The firm recognizes that the commitment to pro bono involves a personal expenditure of time. In acknowledgment of this commitment and to support firm goals, your pro bono service will be considered a positive factor in performance evaluations and compensation decisions and will be subject to the same criteria of performance review and evaluation as those applied to client-billable work. As with all client work, there should be an emphasis on effective results for the client and the efficient and cost-effective use of firm resources.]

V. Administration of Pro Bono Service (see suggested change for small firms below).

A. Approval of Pro Bono Matters. The Pro Bono Committee/Coordinator will review all proposed pro bono legal matters to ensure that:

1. there is no client or issue conflict or concern;

2. the legal issue raised is not frivolous or untenable;

3. the client does not have adequate funds to retain an attorney; and

4. the matter is otherwise appropriate for pro bono representation.

All persons seeking approval of a pro bono project must: (1) submit a request identifying the client and other entity involved; (2) describe the nature of the work to be done; and (3) identify who will be working on the matter. Once the firm undertakes a pro bono matter, the matter is treated in the same manner as the firm's regular paying work.

B. Opening a Pro Bono Matter. It is the responsibility of the attorney seeking to provide pro bono legal services to complete the conflicts check and open a new matter in accordance with regular firm procedures.

C. Pro Bono Engagement Letter. After a matter has received initial firm approval, the principal attorney on a pro bono legal matter must send an engagement letter to the pro bono client. Typically, the engagement letter should be sent after the initial client meeting during which the nature and terms of the engagement are discussed.

D. Staffing of Pro Bono Matters. Pro bono legal matters are initially staffed on a voluntary basis. It may become necessary to assign additional attorneys to the matter if the initial staffing arrangements prove to be inadequate, and the firm reserves the right to make such assignments.

E. Supervision of Pro Bono Matters. As appropriate, partner shall supervise any associate working on a pro bono legal matter and the supervising partner shall remain informed of the status of the matter to ensure its proper handling. In addition, it may be appropriate to use assistance or resources from outside the firm. The firm will assist attorneys in finding a supervisor if necessary.

F. Professional Liability Insurance. Attorneys may provide legal assistance through those pro bono organizations that provide professional liability insurance for their volunteers. The firm also carries professional liability insurance for its attorneys in instances where no coverage is available on a pro bono matter through a qualified legal aid organization. Before undertaking any pro bono legal commitments, the professional liability implications should be reviewed with the Pro Bono Committee or the Pro Bono Coordinator.

G. Paralegal Pro Bono Opportunities. Approved pro bono legal work for paralegals includes: (1) work taken on in conjunction with and under the supervision of an attorney working on a specific pro bono legal matter, or (2) work handled independently for an organization that provides pro bono legal opportunities, provided, however, that such participation does not create an attorney-client relationship and/or involve the paralegal's provision of legal advice.

H. Disbursements in Pro Bono Matters. The firm can and should bill and collect disbursements in pro bono legal matters where it is appropriate to do so based on the client's resources. The firm encourages attorneys to pursue petitions for the waiver of filing fees in civil matters (Chief Justice Directive 98-01) when applicable, and to use pro bono experts, court reporters, investigators and other vendors when available to minimize expenses in pro bono legal matters. The firm may advance or guarantee payment of incidental litigation expenses, and may agree that the repayment of such expenses may be contingent upon the outcome of the matter in accordance with Rule 1.8(e). The Pro Bono Committee/Pro Bono Coordinator must approve in advance any expense of a non-routine, significant nature, such as expert fees or translation costs. The supervising partner in a pro bono legal matter should participate in decisions with respect to disbursements.

I. Attorney Fees in Pro Bono Matters. The firm encourages its attorneys to seek and obtain attorney fees in pro bono legal matters where possible. In the event of a recovery of attorney fees, the firm encourages the donation of these fees to an organized non-profit entity whose purpose is or includes the provision of pro bono representation to persons of limited means.

J. Departing Attorneys. When an attorney handling a pro bono case leaves the firm, he or she should work with the Pro Bono Committee/Coordinator to (1) locate another attorney in the firm to take over the representation of the pro bono client, or (2) see if the referring organization can facilitate another placement.

**[Small firms may wish to title this section "Pro Bono Procedures" and include only the following paragraph in lieu of the above provisions: All pro bono legal matters will be opened in accordance with regular firm procedures, including utilization of a conflicts check and a client engagement letter. Pro bono matters should be supervised by a partner, as appropriate. The firm encourages its attorneys to seek and obtain attorney fees in pro bono legal matters whenever possible.]

VI. CLE Credit for Pro Bono Work

C.R.C.P. 260.8 provides that attorneys may be awarded up to nine (9) hours of CLE credit per three-year reporting period for: (1) performing uncompensated pro bono legal representation on behalf of clients of limited means in a civil legal matter, or (2) mentoring another lawyer or law student providing such representation.

A. Amount of CLE Credit. Attorneys may earn one (1) CLE credit hour for every five (5) billable-equivalent hours of pro bono representation provided to the client of limited means. An attorney who acts as a mentor may earn one (1) unit of general credit per completed matter in which he/she mentors another lawyer. Mentors shall not be members of the same firm or in association with the lawyer providing representation to the client of limited means. An attorney who acts as a mentor may earn two (2) units of general credit per completed matter in which he/she mentors a law student.

B. How to Obtain CLE Credit. An attorney who seeks CLE credit under C.R.C.P. 260.8 for work on an eligible matter must submit the completed Form 8 to the assigning court, program or law school. The assigning entity must then report to the Colorado Board of Continuing Legal and Judicial Education its recommendation as to the number of general CLE credits the reporting pro bono attorney should receive.