Special Projects


PBI, through its CPBO project, has worked with in-house counsel in more than a dozen jurisdictions to change restrictive practice rules that limit participation in pro bono by in-house counsel. Currently, the practice rules in all but two states permit in-house counsel licensed in other U.S. jurisdictions to represent their in-state employer, often through a registration or similar certification process, but many of these rules limit representation to the employer-client, restricting “registered in-house counsel” participation in pro bono services for those in need.

While many jurisdictions permit non-locally licensed in-house attorneys to practice law for their employer as long as they are in good standing in another state, this exception does not always extend to providing pro bono services. Some states permit these in-house counsel to deliver pro bono services, but often subject to difficult and unnecessary restrictions that limit and discourage their pro bono participation.

The CPBO project creates and maintains resources to help legal departments understand the state rules that authorize non-locally licensed in-house counsel to do pro bono. Additionally, the project develops strategies and resources to advocate for changes to state practice rules that restrict in-house pro bono. The CPBO project assembles and works with interested in-house counsel, outside counsel, state bars, access to justice commissions, and other stakeholders on rule reform.

Four states – Illinois, New York, Virginia (Part I Virginia Corporate Counsel only), and Wisconsin – have adopted useful language that eases restrictions on registered in-house counsel’s ability to provide pro bono legal services to underserved communities. These provisions serve as models for other jurisdictions.

Illinois Rule 716. Limited Admission of House Counsel:

(g) Authority and Limitations. A lawyer licensed and employed as provided by this Rule has the authority to act on behalf of his or her employer for all purposes as if licensed in Illinois. The lawyer may not act as counsel for the employer until the application is accepted and approved by the Court. A lawyer licensed under this rule shall not offer legal services or advice to the public or in any manner hold himself or herself out to be engaged or authorized to engage in the practice of law, except such lawyer may provide voluntary pro bono public services as defined in Rule 756(f).

New York Rule 522.8. Pro bono legal services:

Notwithstanding the restrictions set forth in section 522.4 of this Part, an attorney registered as in-house counsel under this Part may provide pro bono legal services in this State in accordance with New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 6.1(b) and other comparable definitions of pro bono legal services in New York. An attorney providing pro bono legal services under this section:

(a) shall be admitted to practice and in good standing in another state or territory of the United States or in the District of Columbia and possess the good moral character and general fitness requisite for a member of the bar of this State, as evidenced by the attorney’s registration pursuant to section 522.1(b) of this Part;

(b) pursuant to section 522.2(c)(2) of this Part, agrees to be subject to the disciplinary authority of this State and to comply with the laws and rules that govern attorneys admitted to the practice of law in this State, including the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200.0) and the rules governing the conduct of attorneys in the judicial department where the attorney’s registration is issued;

(c) may appear, either in person or by signing pleadings, in a matter pending before a tribunal, as that term is defined in New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 1.0(w), at the discretion of the tribunal, without being admitted pro hac vice in the matter. Prior to any appearance before a tribunal, a registered in-house counsel must provide notice to the tribunal that the attorney is not admitted to practice in New York but is registered as in-house counsel pursuant to this Part. Such notice shall be in a form approved by the Appellate Division; and

(d) shall not hold oneself out as an attorney admitted to practice in this State, in compliance with section 522.4(d) of this Part.

Virginia Rule 1A:5. Virginia Corporate Counsel & Corporate Counsel Registrants:

  1. (f) Notwithstanding the restrictions set out in Part I(e) on the scope of practice, a lawyer certified pursuant to Part I of this rule may, and is encouraged to, provide voluntary pro bono publico services in accordance with Rule 6.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct.

Wisconsin Rule 10.03(4) f. Persons Included in Membership:

Counsel not admitted to the practice of law in this jurisdiction but admitted in any other U.S. jurisdiction or foreign jurisdiction, who is employed as a lawyer in Wisconsin on a continuing basis and employed exclusively by a corporation, association, or other nongovernmental entity, the business of which is lawful and consists of activities other than the practice of law or the provision of legal services, shall register as in-house counsel within 60 days after the commencement of employment as a lawyer or if currently so employed then within 90 days of the effective date of this rule, by submitting to the Board of Bar Examiners the following:

    1. A completed application in the form set forth in Appendix B to this rule;
    2. A nonrefundable fee of two hundred and fifty dollars ($250) to the Board of Bar Examiners;
    3. Documents proving admission to practice law in the primary jurisdiction in which counsel is admitted to practice law; and
    4. An affidavit from an officer, director, or general counsel of the employing entity attesting to the lawyer’s employment by the entity and the capacity in which the lawyer is so employed.

A lawyer registered under this subsection may provide pro bono legal services without fee or expectation of fee as provided in SCR 20:6.1.

In addition, CPBO has drafted language for other jurisdictions to consider. To receive more information contact the CPBO project.


To advocate for and work toward changes to practice rules that create barriers to pro bono practice by in-house counsel and more.