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Amendments Proposed to the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement Creating an Emeritus Status for Pro Bono Legal Representation

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is considering recommending to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that it adopt new Rule 403 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement creating an emeritus status for attorneys who retire from the practice of law and seek to provide pro bono services to legal aid organizations.

The proposed new Rule 403 has been published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and interested persons are invited to submit written comments by mail or facsimile regarding the proposed amendments to the Office of the Secretary, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on or before August 24, 2017.

Currently, thirty-eight jurisdictions have emeritus programs in place. A review of these programs reveals that there is a great degree of variability in how states design their rules. The Disciplinary Boards' primary goal in establishing an emeritus program in Pennsylvania is to balance encouraging pro bono work with protecting citizens of the Commonwealth.

Emeritus programs create a pool of qualified volunteer attorneys to provide services to those in need. Emeritus attorneys perform valuable roles in the community by bolstering legal aid and other nonprofit programs to help close the gap between the need for and the availability of free legal services.

The proposed rule addresses qualifications, application procedure, transfer to emeritus status, limitation on practice, eligible legal aid organizations, renewal of emeritus status and continuing legal education requirements.

Some key requirements include:

  • In order to transfer to emeritus status an attorney must be on retired status;
  • The emeritus applicant must complete twelve hours of continuing legal education within one year prior to the application date as a prerequisite to transferring to emeritus status;
  • The emeritus applicant must verify that he or she is authorized solely to provide pro bono services, is not permitted to handle client funds, and is not permitted to ask for or receive compensation;
  • The emeritus applicant, at the time of application, must pay a registration fee of $35, an amount less than the current $225 for active attorneys and $100 for inactive attorneys;
  • Once approved for emeritus status, the attorney will be eligible to provide pro bono services only through an eligible legal aid organization;
  • The emeritus attorney is required to submit an eligible legal aid organization form to the Secretary of the Disciplinary Board for approval of each organization for which the attorney expects to perform pro bono services;
  • An emeritus attorney may renew the status on an annual basis between January 1 and January 31 of each year with the payment of the annual fee.

Comments may be submitted to the Office of the Secretary, The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 601 Commonwealth Avenue, Suite 5600, PO Box 62625, Harrisburg, PA 17106-2625, Facsimile number (717-231-3382), Email address Dboard.comments@pacourts.us on or before August 24, 2017.

Notice, Pennsylvania Bulletin, 47 Pa.B. 3488, Saturday, June 24, 2017.

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