Dist. of Columbia
District of Columbia lawyers serving the public good.

                                               Department of Energy

Washington, DC 20585


January 04, 2000







SUBJECT:       Pro Bono Legal Services


Recently several employees have made inquiries about the possibility of providing pro bono legal services.  Given these inquiries, I think it is appropriate for me to make it clear that individuals are free to provide pro bono legal services subject to certain restrictions.  Indeed, Attorney General Reno has issued guidance encouraging interested government attorneys to undertake pro bono work within the governing restrictions.

Pro bono work is broadly defined to include many different types of legal representation performed without compensation.  Examples are legal services provided to persons of limited means or other disadvantaged persons, as well as legal services provided to charitable, religious, civic, community, health, and educational organizations.  The Department does not seek to restrict the type of pro bono activities in which employees engage, provided that such activities do not violate any statutory or regulatory restrictions.  Within the limitations discussed below, pro bono legal work may be performed by employees of the Office of General Counsel.

All pro bono legal work is subject to limitations, including prior approval requirements, compliance with all conflict of interest statutes and regulations, and compliance with all local unauthorized practice of law statutes and fee requirements.  For example, you may not engage in pro bono legal services that create or appear to create a conflict of interest with your work for the Department.  Nor, with very limited exceptions, may you represent third parties before the Federal government or in matters where the Federal government has a direct and substantial interest.  In addition, because pro bono legal work is not part of any employee?s official duties, such work may not be assigned to or otherwise required of subordinates.  In addition you may not identify yourself as a Department employee when performing pro bono legal services.  Before participating in any pro bono legal services you must obtain the written approval of your supervisor and the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for General Law.

Department employees are encouraged to participate in pro bono legal services that can be accomplished outside their scheduled work hours.  Pro bono legal work may also sometimes occur during scheduled work hours either if annual leave is approved or if you arrange with your supervisor to work additional hours outside of your regularly scheduled hours.

If you have any questions about performing pro bono legal services or the restrictions that apply, contact the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for General Law at extension 61522. 


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