Hoosier Lawyer? As of January 1, 2020, They Don’t Have to Be From Indiana

On January 1, 2020, the pool of attorneys eligible to provide pro bono legal services in Indiana will expand, thanks to a recent order of the Indiana Supreme Court. Indiana joins 39 states and the District of Columbia in permitting non-locally licensed in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services in the jurisdiction in which they practice law for their employer. These authorizations come in the form of practice rules permitting registered in-house counsel, or out-of-state attorneys more broadly, to deliver pro bono services. Such rules are a critical step in helping to address the shortage of available legal aid for low-income individuals in the United States.

The October 17, 2019 Indiana Supreme Court order creates a new category of law license – a “Pro Bono Publico License” – for which inactive, retired, or active out-of-state attorneys in good standing may apply. Attorneys who are licensed out-of-state and work in-house pursuant to a Business Counsel License are eligible to apply for the pro bono license, which is to be granted in the discretion of the Court.

In July, PBI submitted comments to the Indiana Supreme Court on the proposed rule, applauding the rule for providing a pathway for registered in-house counsel and others to assist persons of limited means to access free legal services.  PBI recommended that the court not impose restrictions or limitations on the authorization for registered in-house counsel to engage in pro bono, and instead implement a “model rule” where the pro bono authorization is subject only to the rules of professional conduct, as in Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  Unfortunately, Indiana did not adopt a “model rule”; instead, the new rule requires covered attorneys to provide pro bono services through an approved pro bono or legal service organization. This restriction limits attorneys from providing pro bono legal services through law firm partnerships, nonprofit organizations that provide vital services to the community but are not traditional legal services providers (e.g., United Way), community services organizations, and civil rights organizations.

Nevertheless, PBI commends Indiana for implementing a pro bono rule that will permit registered in-house counsel and other out-of-state attorneys, as well as retired and inactive Indiana attorneys to provide much-needed pro bono legal services to low-income families and individuals in Indiana.

Are you interested in expanding the authorization for in-house attorneys and others to provide pro bono legal services? Contact PBI for more information about its multijurisdictional practice initiative, and join our effort to advance rules that encourage pro bono participation.