PBI Applauds Kansas’s New Rule Permitting Registered In-House Counsel to Practice Pro Bono

On September 6, 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court lifted the prohibition against non-locally licensed in-house counsel providing pro bono legal services. The amendment to Kansas Supreme Court Rule 712 will permit the approximately 200 registered in-house counsel in Kansas to provide legal aid to low-income individuals and communities. Last year, 10,000 legal aid requests went unfulfilled by Kansas Legal Services due to lack of staff capacity. The new rule will allow more attorneys in the private bar to deliver much needed legal services to the underserved. Pro Bono Institute (PBI) congratulates the many in-house counsel and their partners who advocated for this new rule and applauds the Kansas Supreme Court for implementing the amendment.

The success story in Kansas demonstrates how the support of legal departments can influence and accelerate reform of pro bono practice rules. In March 2018, in-house attorneys at Cargill and Koch Industries jump-started the process by requesting the rule change at a meeting of the Kansas Board of Law Examiners. By April, many attorneys in the private bar and in legal services organizations had joined the call for reform. In June, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a draft amendment to Rule 712 for public comment that permitted registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono through an approved not-for-profit provider of legal services or an accredited law school clinic. Less than 3 months later, the Kansas Supreme Court issued its September 6 order permitting registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services, subject to those conditions.

Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a project of PBI, and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) worked together to submit public comments to the Kansas Supreme Court on the proposed rule change, in support of the efforts of Cargill, Koch, and others. CPBO and ACC urged the Court to follow the example of four states with model rules permitting registered in-house counsel to do pro bono without additional limitations, such as requiring affiliation with a legal services organization or law school clinic. Although the Court opted not to adopt the model rule, CPBO commends the reform as a tremendous step in the right direction and congratulates the many in-house counsel that advocated for this change.

Kansas joins the more than one dozen jurisdictions that have recently amended practice rules to permit greater engagement in pro bono by in-house counsel.  For legal departments interested in learning more about efforts to change the rules in other jurisdictions, please contact CPBO at cpbo@probonoinst.org or visit CPBO’s multijurisdictional practice resources.  For other resources on in-house pro bono, please visit CPBO’s website.