pro bono: doing it, reporting it
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. ~Preamble, Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct
Rule 6.1 [Full Text]
Rule 6.7 [Full Text]
Frequently asked questions (and some common excuses):
- Why do we have to report our pro bono hours and donations? Judges and courts are deeply concerned about the increased number of individuals filing and/or defending civil lawsuits without an attorney. In fact, a 2013 review of Odyssey found 62% of civil litigants were not represented by an attorney. This percentage is even higher in family law cases.
- What types of pro bono do I have to report? Only hours spent providing "direct pro bono legal services" have to be reported. You do not report other types of pro bono service, even if it qualifies as "pro bono" under Rule 6.1. If you aren't sure if what you're doing is considered "reportable" under 6.7, feel free to contact us.
- Aren't legal service organizations supposed to help those who can't afford to hire an attorney? Civil legal aid can't help everyone that needs it. Indiana’s legal service organizations turn away over half of all qualified applicants (e.g., those with income under 125% of the federal poverty guidelines), and even more applicants rejected for having “too much” income – even though they do not have enough funds to pay an attorney
- I don't have time / my employer doesn't allow me to do pro bono. There are many ways to do pro bono. Many opportunities don't require you to represent a particular client, spend hours on a single case, or even to leave your house. Remember, even time spent doing "non-reportable" service can make a big difference. Or, you can always donate.
- Will I get into trouble if I don't do any pro bono? No. Doing pro bono is not mandatory. The rules only require you to report the qualifying pro bono work you have actually done (even if it nothing).
- I don't know anything about family law. That's OK. We need attorneys in many different areas of the law. Of course, if you want to learn family law, Heartland can help. Check out our CLE page for upcoming seminars.