When a respected colleague at my in-house legal department told me he was unaware there was a professional conduct rule that said lawyers should either do pro bono work or donate to a legal services organization, I thought, “This rule needs a press agent!”
Massachusetts Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 doesn’t really ask a lot of lawyers – it says we must either do 25 hours per year of volunteer work for people who cannot afford a lawyer, or contribute from $250 to 1% of your professional income to organizations that provide free legal services to people of limited means.
Maybe my colleague wasn’t aware of Rule 6.1 because he has been a lawyer a long time, and so hasn’t been through Massachusetts’ new lawyer orientation that emphasizes this professional obligation. Maybe he’s not aware of the annual Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards for outstanding pro bono effort or the Pro Bono Honor Roll that is maintained by the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono to recognize lawyers and law students who help the poor. Maybe some of us who work in-house don’t see as many opportunities to do pro bono work as lawyers who work at large firms.
The BBA In-House Forum is determined to change that! Next Wednesday, June 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the BBA is a panel discussion and then a reception titled “Pro Bono for the In-House Lawyer.” The panel will feature representatives of four pro bono organizations who will describe the many ways in-house lawyers can get involved in pro bono work. Each organization has invited an in-house lawyer who has volunteered, and can attest that it is possible to find meaningful and manageable opportunities, get the training and mentoring you need, still keep your day job, and make a difference to someone who would not otherwise get legal help.
Following the panel will be a reception where other organizations will be available for in-house lawyers to meet and make connections for future pro bono work. Still think you’re too busy to fit in volunteering but want to fulfill your professional obligation under Rule 6.1? That’s okay – because there is a Plan B under Rule 6.1 — donating to legal services organizations. We’ll have a handout that tells you how. Hope to see you Wednesday night.
To register for the event, please click here.
Member, BBA In-House Forum