Federal government attorneys around the country are helping those in need by handling pro bono cases, drafting wills, providing advice at legal clinics, mentoring students, and more. The Federal Government Pro Bono Program is available to help you find appropriate pro bono opportunities which do not pose conflicts of interest and which offer resources and support to help you have a successful and rewarding experience. This Practice Area contains information about the rules governing federal government attorneys' pro bono activity, resources to help you find opportunities, points of contact at your agency, and links to resources about different areas of law that you can use in your pro bono work. If you need additional assistance, contact Laura Klein, Chair, Federal Government Pro Bono Program, at Laura.F.Klein@usdoj.gov.
The Federal Government Pro Bono Program was formally established in 1996 after many years of coordinated efforts to break down barriers to federal government attorneys’ involvement in pro bono activity. Executive Order 12988 (February 1996) directed federal agencies to “develop appropriate programs to encourage and facilitate pro bono legal and other volunteer service by government employees to be performed on their own time, including attorneys, as permitted by statute, regulation or other rule or guideline.”
Led by the Department of Justice, approximately 50 federal government agencies currently participate in the Program. This group was developed to assist federal agencies with drafting pro bono policies, to address issues which affect federal government attorneys who want to volunteer, and to expand the program to support federal government attorneys throughout the country. Although the Program has been well established in D.C. for over 20 years, branches of the Program now exist in other cities, such as Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Denver, and Dallas.
One of the unique aspects of the Program has been its ability to thrive despite the unique challenges facing government attorneys who want to do pro bono work. Because government attorneys must provide legal services during their own time, cannot use government resources in providing services, and must be cognizant of job-related conflicts of interest, pro bono work becomes all the more challenging. Yet, despite these obstacles, federal government attorneys have been able to provide pro bono services for many low-income Americans, engaging in tasks such as providing advice and referrals, litigating civil cases, staffing clinics, drafting wills, and conducting mediation.