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Pro Bono Manual Section 2: Model Pro Bono Policies

Law Firm Pro Bono Policy

    The purpose of this memorandum is to record the firm's policy of encouraging pro bono activity and to describe the procedures that the firm will follow in handling pro bono matters.

    Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 6.1 PDF provides:
    "A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means, or to public service or charitable groups or organizations. A lawyer may also discharge this responsibility by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system, or the legal profession, and by financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means."

      The comment on this rule states as follows:
      "Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or workload, should find time to participate in or otherwise support the provision of legal services to the disadvantaged."

    The Firm's Commitment: The firm believes that pro bono matters are an important part of its overall responsibility. It is part of every attorney's professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to those in need, and the firm wishes to create an environment in which handling pro bono matters can be done in an efficient manner, with the least administrative burden. The firm believes that pro bono matters must be handled with the same level of professional competence as any other matter handled by the firm.

    Michigan Voluntary Pro Bono Standard: The firm endorses the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard which was recently updated and initially adopted by the Representative Assembly of the State Bar of Michigan on April 28, 1990. The firm will strive to meet the Standard, to the extent possible, by providing legal services to low-income individuals or to organizations providing services to low-income individuals, as provided in points 1 and 2 of the Standard.

    Administration: All matters proposed to be undertaken on a pro bono basis shall be reviewed to ensure that

    • acceptance of matters is compatible with overall workload constraints,
    • there is no legal or business conflict with an existing client, the legal issue raised is not frivolous or untenable, and
    • the case is appropriate for pro bono representation.

    If the client would be financially eligible for assistance through a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) or other legal services provider program, the firm will volunteer to provide pro bono assistance, and will consider seeking to have the client's case administered by the local pro bono program. LSC pro bono programs, and many other legal services providers, provide malpractice coverage, as well as administrative responsibility for the case. If a local pro bono program is unable to provide malpractice insurance coverage for a pro bono case, coverage may be available from the State Bar's Michigan Litigation Assistance Partnership Program's (MI-LAPP) PDF Malpractice Insurance Program for Pro Bono Program.

    Recording of Time and Handling of Expenses: Time spent by attorneys on accepted pro bono matters will be counted as part of total productive time for all purposes. The firm will make a good-faith effort to record pro bono hours or contributions. Waiver or suspension of fees for indigent individuals (see, e.g., MCR 2.002 PDF and SCAO Form MC 20 PDF) will be sought where appropriate. The firm will devote the resources of the support staff, including temporary or part-time staff, to pro bono matters. Non-reimbursable expenses should be contemplated in advance where foreseeable.

    Professional Liability Insurance: There are three ways Michigan lawyers that do not have their own malpractice insurance can access coverage for their pro bono work. First, the 40+ Access to Justice (ATJ) programs PDF around the state either carry their own malpractice insurance that extends to their pro bono lawyers or offer that coverage through a partnership with the State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative's Michigan Litigation Assistance Partnership program (MI-LAPP). PDF

    Second, lawyers without malpractice coverage who want to provide pro bono services to clients they obtain on their own can contact an ATJ program and ask for a "reverse referral." If a client is income and asset- eligible under the program's eligibility guidelines and the case fits within the program's case priorities, most ATJ programs can add the client to the program's docket and provide the program's malpractice coverage to the pro bono lawyer. Additional benefits of working through many of the ATJ programs are that the programs screen clients for income eligibility, assess the merits of the case, understand that the case meets community priorities, offer technical assistance, and have formal pro bono recognition programs.

    Finally, if the client matter is not able to fit in an ATJ program through a reverse referral, the MI-LAPP might be able to offer malpractice coverage. A request for coverage should be made if the client's income is within 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, liquid assets do not exceed $5,000, and the case is a meritorious civil matter that would not be handled by a private lawyer because there is no likelihood of a fee. Visit the State Bar website for details, an intake form (ATJ Program PDF / Non-ATJ Program PDF), and process instructions PDF. MI-LAPP malpractice coverage extends only to the particular pro bono matter and the individual attorney.

    For more information on this program, contact Robert Mathis, SBM pro bono service counsel, at (800) 968-1442 ext. 6412 or rmathis@mail.michbar.org.

Corporate Legal Department Pro Bono Policy

    The purpose of this memorandum is to record the legal department's policy of encouraging pro bono activity and to describe the procedures that the legal department will follow in handling pro bono matters.

    Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct: Rule 6.1 PDF provides: "A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means, or to public service or charitable groups or organizations. A lawyer may also discharge this responsibility by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system, or the legal profession, and by financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means."

    The comment on this rule states as follows:
    "Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or workload, should find time to participate in or otherwise support the provision of legal services to the disadvantaged."

    The Legal Department's Commitment: The legal department believes that pro bono matters are an important part of its overall responsibility. It is part of every attorney's professional responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to those in need, and the legal department wishes to create an environment in which handling pro bono matters can be done in an efficient manner, with the least administrative burden. The legal department believes that pro bono matters must be handled with the same level of professional competence as any other matter handled by the legal department.

    Support of Management: This policy has been reviewed by and has the support of the management of the company.

    Michigan Voluntary Pro Bono Standard PDF: The legal department endorses the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard which was recently updated and initially adopted by the Representative Assembly of the State Bar of Michigan on April 28, 1990. The legal department encourages its attorneys to meet the Standard, to the extent possible, primarily by providing legal services to low-income individuals or to organizations providing services to low-income individuals, as provided in points 1 and 2 of the Standard.

    Administration
    Pro Bono Coordinator. The legal department has named ________________________ as the Pro Bono Coordinator of the legal department. The Pro Bono Coordinator has the responsibility for managing the pro bono efforts of the legal department and its individual attorneys. All matters proposed to be undertaken on a pro bono basis shall be reviewed by the Pro Bono Coordinator, who will ensure that

    • acceptance of matters is compatible with overall workload constraints;
    • there is no legal or business conflict with an existing client;
    • the legal issue raised is not frivolous or untenable; and
    • the case is appropriate for pro bono representation.

    If the client would be financially eligible for assistance through a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) or other legal services provider program, the legal department will volunteer to provide pro bono assistance, and will consider seeking to have the client's case administered by the local pro bono program. LSC pro bono programs, and many other legal services providers, provide malpractice coverage, as well as administrative responsibility for the case. If a local pro bono program is unable to provide malpractice insurance coverage for a pro bono case, coverage may be available from the State Bar's Michigan Litigation Assistance Partnership Program's (MI-LAPP) PDF Malpractice Insurance for Pro Bono Program.

    Time Spent on Pro Bono Work: Time spent on authorized pro bono matters will be counted as part of total productive hours and shall be considered for the purpose of performance evaluations and compensation. The legal department recognizes that some pro bono work will need to be done during normal office hours. [Attorneys will be expected to at least match the company time expended on pro bono efforts with contributions of their own time.]

    Record Keeping and Expenses: Attorneys will be expected to maintain records of the number of matters handled and the time spent on each. The legal department will establish a budget for expenses related directly to pro bono work, such as library materials purchased solely for this activity, court and agency filing fees, transportation and training expenses, and malpractice insurance, and attorneys will be expected to identify and control such expenses to ensure that they remain within the budget. It is expected that a waiver or suspension of fees for indigent individuals (see, e.g., MCR 2.002 PDF and SCAO Form MC 20 PDF) will be sought where appropriate. However, the legal department will devote the resources of the support staff—legal assistants, secretaries, word processing, messenger service, duplicating, and the like to pro bono matters. Assignment of attorneys and legal assistants and nonreimbursable expenses of a nonroutine nature must be cleared in advance by the Pro Bono Coordinator.

    Professional Liability Insurance: There are three ways Michigan lawyers that do not have their own malpractice insurance can access coverage for their pro bono work. First, the 40+ Access to Justice (ATJ) programs PDF around the state either carry their own malpractice insurance that extends to their pro bono lawyers or offer that coverage through a partnership with the State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative's Michigan Litigation Assistance Partnership Program (MI-LAPP). PDF

    Second, lawyers without malpractice coverage who want to provide pro bono services to clients they obtain on their own can contact an ATJ program and ask for a "reverse referral." If a client is income and asset- eligible under the program's eligibility guidelines and the case fits within the program's case priorities, most ATJ programs can add the client to the program's docket and provide the program's malpractice coverage to the pro bono lawyer. Additional benefits of working through many of the ATJ programs are that the programs screen clients for income eligibility, assess the merits of the case, understand that the case meets community priorities, offer technical assistance, and have formal pro bono recognition programs.

    Finally, if the client matter is not able to fit in an ATJ program through a reverse referral, the MI-LAPP might be able to offer malpractice coverage. A request for coverage should be made if the client's income is within 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, liquid assets do not exceed $5,000, and the case is a meritorious civil matter that would not be handled by a private lawyer because there is no likelihood of a fee. Visit the State Bar website for details, an intake form (ATJ Program PDF / Non-ATJ Program PDF), and process instructions PDF. MI-LAPP malpractice coverage extends only to the particular pro bono matter and the individual attorney.

    For more information on this program, contact Robert Mathis, SBM pro bono service counsel, at (800) 968-1442 ext. 6412 or rmathis@mail.michbar.org.

     

 

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