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Pro Bono 6.1 Equal Access To Justice

The "6.1" in the Pro Bono Project's logo underscores the legal profession's commitment to upholding the ideals expressed in Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1

Information for Lawyers


Pro Bono Project members are not required to accept a specific number of referrals or perform a particular type of service. You may describe on your application any limitations or conditions on the scope of your service.

We offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, including:

Direct Representation:  You may want to help a client with an issue you've never seen before, or you can stay in your comfort zone, which means that we won't ask a labor lawyer to take a divorce case.   

Advice Clinics:  Spend an hour or two at Saturday Bar, serving as Attorney of the Day in General Sessions Court, or staffing another Advice Clinic to helping people who need general advice or legal information.  Click "Advice Clinic Schedule and Information" for details.
 
Intake and Volunteer Recruitment:  You might enjoy interviewing prospective clients to evaluate their claims and refer them to other volunteers for additional help if needed.

Pro Bono Mentors: We are actively recruiting experienced attorneys to serve as pro bono mentors for less experienced attorneys and recent law school graduates who are interested in handling pro bono cases and would benefit from a mentorship relationship.  Pro Bono Mentors are associated on the pro bono case with a pro bono mentee and are available to answer questions that arise in the case.  Mentors who agree to associate with a pro bono mentee are covered under Legal Aid’s malpractice insurance and receive CLE ethics credit for the time they contribute to the case.

Community Education:  Many volunteers provide workshops for the staff of social-service agencies or make presentations to client groups about specific legal topics.  We also welcome volunteers to help us develop training materials for volunteers and informational brochures for clients.

"Reverse Referrals":  If you are already handling a pro bono case for an indigent client, we may be able to open a file for that client so that you can take advantage of malpractice insurance, CLE credit, and other benefits Legal Aid offers our volunteers. Please contact the Pro Bono Director in your area to learn more.

Application

Please print the application and fax or mail it to the Pro Bono Project Director in the county in which you practice.

The Pro Bono Project is coordinated through three regional offices. To volunteer, contact the Pro Bono Project Director for your county.

Counties: Carter, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington

Terry Woods
Pro Bono Project Director

311 W. Walnut Street
Johnson City, TN 37604

• Phone: (800) 821-1312 
          or (423) 928-8311

• Fax: (423) 928-9488

• Email: twoods@laet.org

Pro Bono Project Director
Counties: Blount, Loudon, Knox and Sevier

Terry Woods
Pro Bono Project Director


502 S. Gay Street
Suite 404
Knoxville, TN 37902

• Phone: (865) 525-3425 

• Fax: (865) 525-1162

• Email: twoods@laet.org
























 

Counties: Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, Meigs, McMinn, Monroe, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie

Charles E. McDaniel
Pro Bono Project Director

535 Chestnut Street
Suite 360
Chattanooga, TN 37402

• Phone: (800) 572-7457
          or (423) 756-4013

• Fax:  (423) 265-4164

• Email: cmcdaniel@laet.org 









CLE Credit

Lawyers can earn Continuing Legal Education credit by doing their pro bono service through the Pro Bono Project. Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 21(4)4.07(c) authorizes one hour of Ethics and Professionalism Credit for every five hours of pro bono work.  You may report your time to your Pro Bono Project Director, who will submit it to the CLE Commission quarterly.


Professional Liability Insurance

Volunteer lawyers handling files through the Pro Bono Project receive primary coverage under LAET’s $1,000,000 professional liability insurance policy


CLE Programs

LAET offers a series of CLE programs a little or no charge to PBP members.  Click "CLE Programs" on the left for a list of future programs.


Court Reporters and Other Litigation Support

As a general rule, Pro Bono Project clients are responsible for paying any litigation costs; but the PBP may be able to recruit other professionals (e.g., court reporters, mediators, guardians ad litem, etc.) to serve without charge or at a reduced fee.  To arrange for assistance, contact the PBP Director for your county well in advance of the time you need the service. If you make direct arrangements for pro bono service by another professional, be sure to specify whether that person expects a fee to be paid by the adverse party.  Your PBP Director can give you a retainer agreement to use with court reporters and mediators to clarify the scope of their service as well as the fee.


Expense Reimbursement

General Policy:  Clients are responsible for paying expenses. However, LAET will advance or reimburse clients for expenses in certain circumstances, with advance approval.

Request for LAET To Pay Expenses: LAET may pay for a particular expense if the volunteer lawyer
  • establishes to his/her satisfaction that the client is unable to bear the cost and
  • the volunteer or the client submits a written request to LAET in advance.
We do not require a written request in advance if the expense is less than $50.00

Contributed Service:  See "Court Reporters and Other Litigation Support" above for more information about arranging for donated services.

Collecting Attorney's Fees

The Pro Bono Project encourages lawyers to seek attorney's fees that can be collected from a party other than the PBP client. Attorney fees are often available by contract (e.g., a lease) or by statute (e.g., the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and many domestic-relations statutes). 

We recommend that volunteers have the client sign an engagement agreement outlining the terms under which the volunteer may collect attorney’s fees.



Law Firm Pro Bono Policies

Tennessee Supreme Court's Pro Bono Challenge:  In 2003, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a "Pro Bono Challenge" to law firms throughout the state, urging the largest firms to create a formal, written pro bono policy.  There are a variety of sample policies online that can assist firms in developing an internal pro bono program. You can link to one sample policy at the end of this section of our website.

Focus on Large Firms:  There are several reasons that the Supreme Court gave particular attention to large law firms in making the Pro Bono Challenge. First, most pro bono work is done by solo practitioners and members of small law firms. These lawyers perform an outstanding service, but they often do not have the financial resources available to large firms to represent indigent clients in complex matters. Second, large firms have the human resources to share the workload and to tap into the substantive legal expertise of individual firm members. Third, large firms are more likely than smaller firms to require lawyers to report a minimum number of billable hours. Without a formal pro bono policy, young lawyers do not know how much pro bono service the firm will tolerate; and they are unsure about what kind of impact their pro bono work will have on their opportunities for advancement in the firm.

Billable Hours:  The billable-hours issue is probably the most controversial and the most difficult to resolve. Should time spent on pro bono service be counted as "billable"?

One school of thought is that a law firm can only convey its support for lawyers performing pro bono work if that time is counted. Those who advocate on that side of the issue also point out that associates compete with each other, which pressures them to bill more than the required minimum, leaving no time to take pro bono cases.

Others take the position that when a firm sets the number of billable hours it requires, that minimum reflects the amount of revenue the firm has determined it must earn, not only to meet its overhead but also to meet the income expectations of partners, associates, and staff. Counting pro bono service toward billable hours forces the firm to choose between reducing its revenue projections or increasing the number of billable hours required.

A third option is to treat pro bono service and fee-generating service as separate but equally important expectations of lawyers in the firm. Law firms demand more from their lawyers than billable hours. A successful firm will not tolerate a lawyer who cuts corners or is unprepared. Lawyers are required to excel in the quality of service they offer clients and to make time for rigorous continuing legal education in order to sustain that quality of service. They are expected to present themselves publicly in a way that reflects positively on the firm. They are encouraged to participate in civic activities. They are expected to recruit new clients. All of these contributions to the firm are considered in appraising the value of what a lawyer brings to the firm. Pro bono service is simply one more element of what makes a lawyer a leader in the profession and an asset to the firm.

More Information:  You may obtain additional information about the pro bono policies of various law firms from the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, a program sponsored by the Pro Bono Institute and the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The Project’s web site is at www.probonoinst.org.

Firm Policy Sample (pdf)







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