If you are new to pro bono work, please keep in mind the following:
When taking on a pro bono representation in an area of the law that is new to you, be sure to participate in appropriate training. Training is often available from the local legal services organizations that refer pro bono cases. Free training is also available online from a variety of sources. See the Training Resources section of this page for links to some of these sources.
As with any other client, a thorough conflict check should be run before the client is formally engaged to ensure that there are no conflicts that would affect the representation. A conflict check should be completed even if you think that it is unlikely that a conflict exists. If there is a potential waivable conflict, advise the potential client regarding the conflict and include waiver language in the engagement letter.
Engagement letters laying out the scope of the pro bono representation should be provided to and signed by pro bono clients to make sure there is a mutual understanding about the scope of the engagement and the terms of the relationship. Be thoughtful in describing the scope of the engagement so that there is no confusion. If the client is not comfortable in English, the engagement letter should be translated into the client’s primary language. Engagement letters may be signed by older children and teens themselves. In the case of representation of a young child, a guardian may sign on behalf of the child, or in some cases involving young children it may be appropriate to proceed without an engagement letter.
Keep in mind that the same ethical obligations apply in regard to pro bono clients as would apply for any other clients, including but not limited to the duty of loyalty, the duty of competence, and the duty to maintain confidentiality. Consult your local rules of professional responsibility in regard to any ethical questions that may arise.
It is important that you communicate clearly and regularly with your pro bono client, as with any other client. In the event of long delays in the representation, such as when waiting for a hearing date or a determination, reach out to your client to touch base and keep in contact. Remind your client early and often to inform you in the event of any change to the client’s address or other contact information.