On April 8, the Illinois Supreme Court made effective a new rule that empowers more than 400 limited license in-house attorneys in the state to provide pro bono legal services free from unnecessary restrictions. As The PBEye recently reported, the Court approved an amendment to its practice rules in March regarding limited license in-house attorneys providing pro bono legal services.
The Illinois action is striking for two reasons. First, like Virginia two years ago, Illinois amended an existing rule that allowed non-locally licensed in-house counsel to provide pro bono but imposed various restrictions to their participation, such as only providing pro bono services in association with a legal services organization and making annual filings. Many states do not have any provision, even one with unnecessary restrictions. Now, Illinois joins two other jurisdictions, Colorado and Virginia, that permit broad participation in pro bono by registered in-house counsel and allow registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono services subject to the same rules of professional conduct and disciplinary measures as all other attorneys licensed in state.
The Illinois amendment is also striking because of the collaborative effort that brought about this amendment in a timeframe that, by rule change standards, is a blink of the eye. As reported in the November edition of The Pro Bono Wire, a number of jurisdictions have been working on the right to practice in-house pro bono. Illinois was not in the Wire article at the time because the effort by various committees of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice did not start in earnest until December. At that time, CPBO, ACC, in-house leaders, including Lisa McCraw at Deere & Company**, public services organizations, including the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) and the Chicago Bar Foundation, and others took up the mantle. With universal support, the amendment was approved by all involved within a few months. It is no exaggeration to say that representatives from different sectors of the legal community expressed their support for this amendment and it was adopted with lightning speed.
As more jurisdictions consider this issue, we hope Illinois will serve as a shining example. For more information about this issue or to join the effort to change the rules in other jurisdictions, contact Eve Runyon, director, Corporate Pro Bono.
**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM