Government attorneys CAN do pro bono legal work

If you are a government attorney, you can do pro bono legal work. In fact, you may be a member of a state bar that encourages you to perform legal work for the poor. And, generally, having a job as a lawyer in the public sector doesn't meet that goal. This site answers frequently asked questions that many government lawyers have about doing pro bono legal work. It posts the pro bono policies that we have received from federal agencies. And, for government lawyers working in the DC metropolitan area, it offers suggestions about pro bono legal opportunities.

Malpractice insurance, local bar membership, and courtroom skills are not barriers.

The DC legal community has worked to make pro bono accessible to all. Many local legal services providers will give you malpractice coverage and often offer training and mentoring programs to make sure you will know how to handle every aspect of the cases you take. There are also many non-litigation and non-representational opportunities from which to choose. DC has a specific exemption in its rules to allow government lawyers admitted and in good standing elsewhere to perform pro bono legal services in DC.

Here is how you can get started:

Find out if your agency has a written policy covering pro bono legal work. If no policy is posted for your agency, take a look at one or more of the earliest policies - those of the Department of Justice or the NLRB. They provide a good overview of the issues that you will need to address if you want to do pro bono legal work. Be sure to contact your agency's ethics office for additional information specific to your agency.

Find out if your agency belongs to the federal Interagency Pro Bono Working Group, which meets regularly to address common issues in the development of agency pro bono programs. If so, your agency's contact person for this group could give you important information about doing pro bono legal work.

Find out what kind of pro bono legal opportunities are available in areas of interest to you.

And remember to register for your free membership to one or more of the Practice Areas. Once you become a member, you have unlimited access to the comprehensive online libraries containing training manuals, model pleadings and important links; lists of volunteer opportunities; valuable news items; and relevant events, including trainings and seminars.

News and Events
Calendar of Events

Executive Order and Pro Bono Policies of Government Agencies
Executive Order Issued February 5, 1996 Encouraging Pro Bono Service by Government Employees

Pro Bono Policies of Government Agencies

[Back to Top]

Pro Bono Opportunities for Government Employees

District of Columbia

Other States

[Back to Top]

Unauthorized Practice of Law Exception for Government Attorneys Engaged in Pro Bono Publico
District of Columbia
Rule 49 of the D.C. Court of Appeals (See Procedure for Practice Pro Bono Publico Under Exception 49(c)(9))
Supervision of Attorneys Under Rule 49(c)
Certificate to Practice Under Rule 49

[Back to Top]

Government Attorneys' Ethical Obligations to Engage in Pro Bono Publico
District of Columbia
All Jurisdictions

Sample Forms
Certificate to Practice Under Rule 49
Retainer Agreement
Expense Reimbursement / Authorization (Important: Confirm with the referring legal services agency that it has a litigation fund to cover expenses.)

Frequently Asked Questions

[Back to Top]

Other Resources
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Trainings
Other Trainings and Events
Volunteer Health Consultant Registry
Malpractice Insurance

Establishing a Pro Bono Program in Your Agency
ABA Deskbook for Government Lawyers
Setting Up a Pro Bono Program: The Department of Justice's Experience
Setting Up and Running a Pro Bono Program in a Government Office: The NLRB's Experience (Reprinted With Permission From The Public Lawyer)

[Back to Top]