Washington Lawyer - August 2017 - 6


Pro Bono While In-House?


Lawyers practicing in corporate law departments have increased in numbers and stature in recent decades.
More than 11,500 members of the D.C. Bar identify their practice setting as a for-profit corporation, an increase
of 112 percent since 2000. In-house counsel are now a substantial presence around the world. The Association
of Corporate Counsel, the global organization for in-house lawyers, boasts more than 40,000 members from
more than 10,000 organizations in 85 countries.
We have also seen an upswing in the prominence and respect accorded to in-house counsel. In "An Inside Job:
The Growing Appeal of General Counsel Posts" in the January 2017 issue of Washington Lawyer, Sarah Kellogg
noted that in-house jobs have become desirable career objectives for Big Law attorneys. These days, when
high-level government lawyers leave for the private sector, many move to companies, not law firms.
with Patrick:

"In-house lawyers
must, like our
colleagues in other
practices, engage
in pro bono
service and
support our legal
aid providers."
1 Two prior D.C. Bar presidents practiced as in-house
attorneys during their tenure: Phil Lacovara, president
from 1988 to 1989, was a law firm partner when elected
president-elect, but became a corporate vice president
and senior counsel before his term as president began.
Shirley Higuchi, president from 2003 to 2004, was a senior
lawyer at a nonprofit professional organization.
2 In D.C., an in-house counsel providing legal advice only to
his or her regular employer is not required to be a D.C. Bar
member if the employer does not reasonably expect that
it is receiving advice from a person authorized to practice
law in the District of Columbia. DCCA Rule 49(c)(6).

Photo: Patrice Gilbert Photography

As the first corporate general counsel elected to lead the D.C. Bar,1 I am pleased with the standing in-house
lawyers now enjoy. In more than 20 years of practicing in corporate law departments, I have witnessed the
flourishing of our corner of the profession.
In-house lawyers must, like our colleagues in other practices, engage in pro bono service and support our
legal aid providers. We are not exempt from the expectations of the community and the judicial system that
lawyers serve the needs of those who cannot afford an attorney. Rule 6.1 of the D.C. Rules of Professional
Conduct provides in part that "[a] lawyer should participate in serving those persons, or groups of persons,
who are unable to pay all or a portion of reasonable attorney's fees or who are otherwise unable to obtain
counsel." In-house lawyers are not excluded from this call to do pro bono work. In fact, Comment 6 to the Rule
states: "Law firms and other organizations employing lawyers should act reasonably to enable and encourage all
lawyers in the organization to provide the pro bono legal services called for by this rule." (Emphasis added.)
Corporate counsel often cite three concerns about pro bono work: (1) lack of malpractice insurance; (2)
the misperception that one must have litigation skills to represent the poor; and (3) the assumption that bar
admission only in another state's bar, and not the local bar, precludes local pro bono work.2 There are ready
responses to each of these concerns.
First, most legal services organizations in the District of Columbia, including the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center,
provide malpractice coverage to lawyer volunteers affiliated with the agency. Also, many companies maintain
"employed lawyers" insurance coverage, which may provide insurance for pro bono as well as corporate work.
Second, the opportunities for in-house counsel to provide nonlitigating representation and advice are
abundant. Through the programs and clinics of our Pro Bono Center, for example, lawyers can staff clinics for
part of a Saturday where they provide advice on civil legal matters, including public benefits, landlord-tenant,
family law, and immigration issues (all with the help of expert mentors). They also can provide representation
to people in administrative public benefits appeals and legal information to individuals representing themselves in consumer law, probate, and housing matters through three resource centers at D.C. Superior Court.
Volunteers working with the Pro Bono Center also provide myriad assistance to nonprofit organizations and
small businesses serving low-income communities.
Finally, Rule 49(c)(9)(D) of the D.C. Court of Appeals' Rules provides a clear pathway for lawyers barred in
another state to provide pro bono services in the District. If an in-house counsel in good standing in his or her
home jurisdiction is assigned or referred a matter by an organization that provides free legal services to the
public (like the Pro Bono Center) and is supervised by an active member of the D.C. Bar, he or she can provide
pro bono services on the matter.
Corporate law departments or in-house lawyers can work with Becky Troth, the executive director of the Pro
Bono Center, and her staff to identify the projects and supervisory relationships that will ensure compliance
with all requirements of our ethical rules and provide malpractice coverage. Other legal services providers can
do the same. Resources available from Corporate Pro Bono (cpbo.org), an initiative of the Pro Bono Institute
and the Association of Corporate Counsel, can guide in-house departments and lawyers in starting a pro bono
program or expanding and refining an existing one.
In short, there are no insurmountable barriers to in-house lawyers making the pro bono contributions they
are obliged to undertake. I look forward to persuading more of my colleagues in corporate law departments
to step up their level of engagement.

http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017/index.php#/20 http://washingtonlawyer.dcbar.org/january2017/index.php#/20 https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/ https://www.dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/ https://www.dcbar.org/pro-bono/ http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/appellate/dccarules.jsf http://www.cpbo.org

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