Model Pro Bono Plan

PENNSYLVANIA DIRECT SERVICE PRO BONO PLAN

Introduction
The Pennsylvania Bar Association recognizes the responsibility of every lawyer to render public interest service. Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides:

A lawyer should render public interest service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional service at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations, 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 model plan that follows is designed to provide individual lawyers, acting through their local bar associations, with an opportunity to discharge their public interest service responsibility through participation in an organized direct service program. The program has been designed to encourage maximum participation by attorneys, the servicing of as large a number of disadvantaged individuals as possible, the utilization of technology for efficiency and effectiveness and the delivery of high quality representation.

The plan is a model. It is anticipated that individual counties will incorporate variations and modifications that are appropriate to their individual circumstances and that local bars believe will enhance operations within their jurisdictions. This model plan is subject to review on an annual basis and will be modified based on the actual experience of individual attorneys and bar associations.

While Rule 6.1 recognizes each attorney’s responsibility to provide public interest legal services (hereinafter referred to as “pro bono services”), the method of discharging that responsibility is at the discretion of each attorney. The purpose of this plan is to propose one method that addresses a clear public need that is perceived to exist in all counties of the commonwealth. The Legal Services to the Public Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) may consider the development of additional model programs as is appropriate or useful to the bar in fulfilling the goal of public interest service.

The Legal Services to the Public Committee recommends that the addressing of the civil legal needs of all indigent persons not serviced by publicly funded legal service programs be adopted as special pro bono project of the PBA and by county bar associations. As a special project, it is hoped that the PBA and county bar associations will encourage their members to extend meaningful public interest effort in programs that directly service the legal needs of the indigent in addition to the other forms of public service recognized in Rule 6.1.

It is recognized that many county bar associations have established programs and that complex interactions between and among multiple programs, including local bar associations and foundations, must be coordinated to make comprehensive service to the indigent a reality. This model is not intended to replace existing programs, but to serve as a format for the establishment or modification of an organized direct service program. The Legal Services to the Public Committee stands ready to work with any county bar association that believes that outside consultation may be of use in coordinating, implementing or modifying its program.

The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee will attempt to monitor the implementation of this plan in various counties, to catalogue variations and modifications adopted by individual counties, to collect data concerning the operation of various county plans and to disseminate useful reports concerning the impact of this form of pro bono activity for evaluation by interested parties and institutions. The committee also will attempt to analyze the cost of program administration and the proper allocation of those costs.

Rule 6.1 recognizes various forms of pro bono activities that fulfill a lawyer’s responsibility to render public interest legal services. This program, however, is designed only to address satisfaction of that responsibility through the following provisions: direct civil legal services to poor persons; legal services and financial aid to organizations that have as their primary purpose the provision of civil legal services or assistance to the poor; the training or monitoring of attorneys participating in pro bono programs or staffing legal service programs; and the development of and delivering of community education programs for low income individuals. Other programs and model programs that address other aspects of pro bono publico service may be produced and circulated for consideration by the profession in the future.

The Proposed Program

1. Start Up
Each county bar association will be asked to adopt a resolution committing it to establish or to maintain an ongoing direct service pro bono program. Bar associations that currently operate direct service pro bono programs will be asked to review their programs in consideration of the model provided by this program.

As part of the proposed resolution, each bar association should commit itself, where it has not already done so, to the establishment of a committee to oversee the establishment of the pro bono program, program evaluation and implementation of any necessary changes.

A model resolution and program statement is below.

2. Eligibility
The plan adopted by each local bar association must include a definition of those eligible for service. The eligibility standard must be known to and accepted by the members of the association. The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee recommends that the eligibility standards for service from the governmentally funded legal services organizations be adopted by each local program.

3. Participation of Bar Association Members
a) Participation. It is well recognized that neither government funded nor pro bono programs, alone or jointly can meet the legal needs of the poor. It also is recognized that financial assistance in and of itself would not meet the need. Thus, bar association members are encouraged to give of their time and financial resources to help meet the legal needs of the indigent.

b) Assumed Participation. Although participation in the direct service pro bono program is strictly voluntary, as a special pro bono project of the county bar association in response to Rule 6.1, all members of the local bar association initiaaly will be assumed to want to participate in it. The model program provides appropriate methods for the collection of information from the members of local associations concerning their views, areas of interest and capacities.

c) Financial Contribution. Rule 6.1 recognizes the giving of financial support “for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means” as one of the methods by which a lawyer may discharge his or her responsibility to provide public interest service. In addition to direct service, all attorneys are encouraged to consider making financial contributions to civil legal service programs.

It is recognized that some members will elect to address their public interest obligations solely with contributions. While the amount of any contribution in lieu of service must rest with the conscience of each individual attorney, the PBA suggests that an appropriate annual payment would be equal to the value of the average number of hours of time program in a normal calendar year. The great differences in billing rates customary in various financial contribution fees is a matter within the oversight of each county bar association. It is recommended that the annual financial contribution amount be forwarded to the local legal services program or to such other entity that provides free civil legal services to persons of limited means as the attorney may select.

d) Services Anticipated. Participants in this direct service pro bono program can anticipate providing service in several ways. The direct provision of legal services to needy individuals is anticipated to be the most common. It is important for each program to set a target for the quantity of service that will be requested of each participant. The target may be stated as a number of cases or as a number of hours of service. The PBA recommends that local bar associations consider targets of a minimum of three cases or 15 to 25 hours per calendar year1.

Special forms of providing service through mentoring and co-counseling with legal service attorneys, providing staff training to formal legal service and pro bono programs and the provision of public educational programs on matters of interested to disadvantaged persons also can be expected to be available trough this program. The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee currently is considering model mentoring and public and professional educational programs that will be available to local bar associations as adjuncts to and as part of this direct service pro bono program.

4. Administration
The local bar association is responsible for establishing a workable administration for the program. Cooperation between local bar associations and the legal service program servicing that county is encouraged. Where a local bar association has staff, the pro bono program may be administered by the local staff in coordination with the local legal services program. Where a local bar association is without staff, the pro bono program may be administered by the local legal services program in coordination with the local oversight committee appointed by the bar association as may be agreed to by the bar association and the legal services program.

5. Professional Responsibility and Quality Control
Clients accepted by attorneys through this program become direct clients of the attorney upon acceptance of the matter by the attorney. Each such client is entitled to all of the diligence, care and obligations that the attorney owes to all other clients. Where a lawyer has agreed to provide pro bono service through the direct rendering of legal assistance to indigent individuals, and where referral is made by the local legal services program, each lawyer will be responsible for providing the local legal services program with a closing summary indicating action taken with the consent of the client absent other agreement between the local bar association and the local legal services program.

6. Client Satisfaction
Local bar associations and their members should recognize and agree that the legal service program may send periodic inquiries concerning the status of cases and send a questionnaire on how the case was handled and what happened to each client referred by that legal service program.

7. Professional Liability Insurance
The local bar association should be certain that participating attorneys and the referral agency are covered by reasonable policies of professional liability insurance. Local bar associations should be aware that coverage is available through local legal services programs upon negotiation of acceptable cooperation agreements.

8. Program Initiation and Monitoring
The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee will work with local bar associations to assist in the implementation of local programs based upon this model across the commonwealth. The committee also will attempt to collect information and data concerning the operation of local bar association programs that will be of use in improving the delivery of public interest service in the future.

9. Future Adjuncts to the Direct Service Pro Bono Program
The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee is currently working to develop the following adjuncts to the direct service pro bono program outlined herein. It is intended that these future programs will enhance and expand the direct delivery of legal services to persons of limited means and will provide additional and fulfilling ways by which lawyers will be able to discharge their public interest service responsibilities.

a) The Training Program:
The PBA and the Pennsylvania legal services community, on an annual basis, will provide at least one annual training on substantive poverty law issues and on trial advocacy skills for those attorneys participating in county pro bono programs. Additionally, the legal services community will provide participating pro bono attorneys with pleading forms and other information about cases with which the attorneys are unfamiliar. As herein noted, the PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee and the Pennsylvania legal services community currently are cooperating in the development of mentoring and other professional education programs for legal services and pro bono attorneys.

b) The Community Education Program:
The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee and the Pennsylvania legal services community will develop a community education program specially designed to inform disadvantaged individuals of their rights and responsibilities under the law. The program will utilize written and videotaped material on various poverty law issues, both for informational and self-help purposes. The PBA and the Pennsylvania legal services community will produce such material jointly and, where necessary, will help local bar associations and local legal services programs secure equipment and facilities necessary for such programs.

c) The Mentoring Program:
The PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee and the Pennsylvania legal services community will develop a training program designed to pair experience private sector litigates with inexperienced pro bono attorneys and legal services staff to help develop the litigation skills of said attorneys. The mentoring program is anticipated to include, but not be limited to, training in issue identification, client communication, case theory and strategy, development of pleadings, trial advocacy and the co-counseling of cases. The cases used to develop such skills could come from either the inexperienced or experienced litigator’s office. The mentoring concept also may be extended to other areas of special expertise within the private bar which may be of use to legal service and pro bono attorneys.

d) Other Public Interest Programs:
In addition to the foregoing, the PBA Legal Services to the Public Committee will explore the development of other model programs designed to assist local bar associations in productively channeling the public interest legal service efforts of their members in areas such as providing services at reduced fees to persons of limited means.

10. The Technical Assistance Program
The PBA acting through its Legal Services to the Public Committee and the Pennsylvania legal services community will attempt to provide technical assistance to local bar associations and legal services programs in the development, implementation and evaluation of pro bono programs upon request.

HELPFUL DOCUMENTS

Sample County Bar Association Resolution
Sample Direct Services Plan
Sample Participant Information Form