May 01, 2018

Update of State Emeritas Pro Bono Rules

Gabriel H. Estridge

The PDF for the issue in which this article appears can be found here.

Emeritus pro bono practice rules encourage retired and inactive attorneys to volunteer to provide pro bono assistance to clients unable to pay for essential legal representation. The chart on the Commission on Law & Aging’s website contains essential details of the current rules.

The Senior Emeritus Pro Bono practice rules chart documents each jurisdiction’s rules regarding eligibility for waiver of CLE requirements and dues payments for attorneys who wish to practice pro bono work without the burdens of active membership, often referred to as an “emeritus attorney.”

Forty-three jurisdictions have adopted emeritus pro bono rules waiving some of the normal licensing requirements for attorneys agreeing to limit their practice. Research focused on the following: whether states have a rule for emeritus pro bono attorneys, whether emeritus pro bono attorneys pay dues for membership or participate in MCLE, whether out-of-state attorneys or in-state attorneys qualify, the minimum age and years of service for this status, what sorts of organizations emeritus pro bono attorneys are allowed to work with, and whether the rules mention malpractice insurance requirements for emeritus attorneys.

Kentucky: A New Rule

With amendments to SCR 3.030 and 3.665, Kentucky has codified bar status for emeritus pro bono attorneys. Attorneys who are 70 years or older and no longer “actively practicing law” may register as Senior Retired Active Members. These attorneys are exempt from MCLE requirements and bar dues, and “may donate legal services through a duly organized legal aid program offering pro bono representation, or a local bar association legal pro bono program or initiative.” Unlike other state bars, Kentucky does not enumerate specific qualifying programs.

Maine: Mistakes in Drafting Language to be Ironed Out

Under Maine Bar rules, attorneys who have assumed emeritus status either have reduced or waived MCLE requirements. Which one? It’s unclear. Rule 5(a)(1) specifies that emeritus attorneys are “. . . required to complete only seven credit hours of approved CLE in each calendar year, unless exempted from the requirements of CLE as provided by Rule 5(a)(5).” As it happens, one of 5(a)(5)’s enumerated parties exempted from CLE requirements is emeritus attorneys.

Jacqueline Rogers, the director of the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, indicated that the drafting of 5(a)(1) was in error, and that soon an amendment to Rule 5(a)(1) will be released that will waive all CLE requirements for emeritus attorneys.

Links Break, But Rules Stay the Same

Updating references for state statutes is straightforward but helpful, as states reorganize their directories all the time. While state bar and court websites frequently change, and accessibility isn’t always guaranteed, the actual rule and the location of the rule within state statutes usually remains consistent; even as hyperlinks change throughout the year, so the chart should remain relevant as a quick reference for practitioners.

Gabriel H. Estridge