The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
May 21, 2013

Limited-Scope Pro Bono – Know the Rules!

Last week, PBI hosted the webinar “The Ethics of Unbundled Legal Services: Limited-Scope Representation and Pro Bono.” This program is the second in our series of “Best of the Conference” webinars reprising and supplementing the most popular sessions from the 2013 PBI Annual Conference (the first was “Marketplace of Ideas – Transactional Pro Bono Projects”).

Unbundled legal services, also known as limited-scope or limited assistance representation (LAR), is an increasingly popular model for assisting as many needy clients as possible. LAR generally refers to attorneys assisting a client on a limited basis, with regard to a portion of a legal matter, not its entirety, and performing only specified legal services.

In practice, LAR is an umbrella term for a number of models and services, including staffed hotlines and interactive websites that allow single questions to be posed to essentially anonymous volunteers, advice-only clinics, drafting assistance with contracts or ghost-writing of pleadings, and one-time court appearances.  Many of the potential benefits are obvious: more clients assisted, discrete projects for volunteers with limited time, and better outcomes for clients, courts, and communities.  However, there are also potential ethical concerns associated with LAR for the uninformed.

The following panelists spoke about their experience with LAR and the applicable ethical rules:

  • Hon. Fern A. Fisher, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of New York City Courts, Director of NYS Access to Justice Program
  • L. Joseph Genereux, Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP*†
  • Sheila A. Hubbard, Executive Director, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association

In addition to an in-depth discussion of the rules, several key messages were shared:

  • Ethics rules vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and it is imperative that attorneys consult with their local rules;
  • In cities like Boston, Minneapolis, and New York there are numerous opportunities to volunteer for LAR projects;
  • Pro bono LAR is helping thousands of clients; and
  • Once you know the rules, LAR is an excellent way to improve access to justice.

We are grateful to the presenters for sharing their knowledge, expertise, and dedication to improving access to justice through pro bono legal services.

Soon you can access the webinar on-demand at your convenience, along with the supplemental materials.  The program is free of charge to employees of Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms; please contact Director of Strategic Communications David Lipscomb for the promotional code or for information on becoming a Member of the Law Firm Project.  In-house counsel and staff can obtain registration information from Corporate Pro Bono Project Assistant Eric Florenz. Ethics CLE credit is available in many states for this program.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project