Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15

PRO BONO DO'S & DON'TS FOR FEDERAL ATTORNEYS
Here are some guidelines for
federal attorneys seeking to
do pro bono work.

DO

* Learn about volunteering through the
Federal Government Pro Bono Program
at probono.net/governmentprobono.
* Ask your agency's pro bono coordinator
about your pro bono options.
* Ask your ethics officer what types of pro
bono work you're allowed to do.
* Find a pro bono opportunity that is right
for you, whether a brief advice legal clinic
or representing a client.
* Consult your Pro Bono Center expert
mentor assigned to help you navigate
unfamiliar legal issues.

with minor differences based on agency
requirements and constraints.
Still, there remained one last hurdle - conflicts of interest - in fully implementing a
federal pro bono framework. The answer was
a new rule, 18 U.S.C. ยง 205, which clarified that
a federal attorney cannot represent someone
before a court or a federal agency in which
the United States is a party or has a substantial
interest. This rule predictably eliminates participation in civil cases involving issues like
bankruptcy, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social
Security.
"It is an impressive record of achievement
and laid the foundation for federal pro bono
programs," says Daniel F. Collopy, former deputy
assistant general counsel at the National Labor
Relations Board who pushed the NLRB's pro
bono efforts forward. "All of the spade work was
done to ensure that people who already had
regular full-time jobs could volunteer their time.
We wanted to make this happen, and we
figured out how to make it work."
As the government issues were solved, the D.C.
Bar stepped in to tackle a final problem that
promised to undermine all the work that had
been done. Many federal attorneys are not
members of the D.C. Bar, although they are
allowed to practice in Washington, D.C., when
handling government legal work. So, they were
prohibited from taking local civil cases.

* Attend trainings offered by the Pro Bono
Center and other providers.
* If your agency has no pro bono program,
encourage leadership to contact Laura
Klein.

DON'T

* Be deterred from pro bono work because
you've never done it before.
* Ignore potential conflicts when considering
pro bono opportunities.
* Use office resources for pro bono work
without permission.
* Demand that a government employee
help you with pro bono work.
* Give up on pro bono after just one try.
Stay the course.

The answer to this conundrum was a change
in practice rules - specifically Rule 49(c)(9) of
the D.C. Court of Appeals Rules - that allowed
federal attorneys licensed in other jurisdictions
to volunteer their services. The rule permitted
pro bono work as long as attorneys are in

"

good standing with another bar, are affiliated
with an organization that offers pro bono
services, and are supervised by an active D.C.
Bar member.
"The rule change allowed for a seismic shift in
how much pro bono work could be done by
federal attorneys in the District," says Maureen
Thornton Syracuse, who served as executive
director of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center for
nearly 20 years. "Think about what that meant
with one rule change. There were 7,000 lawyers
in the Justice Department alone."
With the roadblocks removed, the Clinton
administration created a part-time coordinator
position to oversee the government's and the
Justice Department's pro bono activities. It
was later converted into a career position
during the presidency of George W. Bush.
"That really cemented the idea that pro bono
service by federal attorneys was not a partisan
issue," says Syracuse. "That was a huge
development."

A MUTUAL BENEFIT
Generally, the laundry list of benefits for performing pro bono services is long, say federal
attorneys. Aside from personal gratification,
experience with full representation can refine
communication abilities, reinforce litigation skills,
and allow for valuable time inside a courtroom.

Lawyers who are
federal employees are
no different than other
lawyers in recognizing
their obligations to
the community.
JAMIE GORELICK
Former U.S. Deputy
Attorney General

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER

15


http://www.probono.net/governmentprobono

Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Going Above and Beyond feature
On Safer Ground feature
Casa Ruby Profile
Pro Bono Effect
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Going Above and Beyond feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - On Safer Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Casa Ruby Profile
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 38
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover3
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