WSR 03-07-018

RULES OF COURT

STATE SUPREME COURT


[ March 7, 2003 ]

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF THE AMENDMENT TO RPC 6.1 )

)

ORDER

NO. 25700-A-760


The Washington State Bar Association having recommended the adoption of the proposed amendment to RPC 6.1, and a majority of the Court having approved the proposed amendment for publication;

Now, therefore, it is hereby

ORDERED:

(a) That pursuant to the provisions of GR 9(f), the proposed amendment as attached hereto is to be published for comment in the Washington Reports, Washington Register, Washington State Bar Association and Office of the Administrator for the Court's websites expeditiously for a 90 day comment period.

(b) The purpose statement as required by GR 9(d), is published solely for the information of the Bench, Bar and other interested parties.

(c) Comments are to be submitted to the Clerk of the Supreme Court by either U.S. Mail or Internet E-Mail by no later than 90 days from the published date in the Washington Reports. Comments may be sent to the following addresses: P.O. Box 40929, Olympia, Washington 98504-0929, or Lisa.Bausch@courts.wa.gov. Comments submitted by e-mail message must be limited to 1500 words.

DATED at Olympia, Washington this 7th day of March 2003.
For the Court
Gerry L. Alexander
CHIEF JUSTICE



GR 9 COVER SHEET



Suggested Amendments

RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT (RPC)

RULE 6.1 PRO BONO PUBLIC SERVICE




Purpose:


The mission of the Washington State Bar Association's Pro Bono and Legal Aid Committee (PBLAC) is to encourage and facilitate the participation of attorneys in pro bono representation of low income people. As part of this mission, PBLAC has proposed amendments to RPC 6.1, which is the ethical rule that addresses a lawyer's professional responsibility to provide pro bono public service. The purpose is to encourage greater pro bono participation in the state, which is critical given the ongoing legal services funding crisis and the attendant loss of capacity of the civil equal justice delivery system to provide legal services to low income and vulnerable populations. Participation on formal pro bono panels in our state is stagnant - and has been for a number of years - despite an annual increase the number of new lawyers. Currently just under 9% of all active WSBA members participate on formal pro bono panels. While there is anecdotal information that many attorneys provide pro bono legal services to low income clients outside these formal structures, there is no mechanism to track those contributions.

The proposed amendments to RPC 6.1 address these concerns as follows:

Codifies the existing suggested 30-hour pro bono contribution: The Board of Governors has, on three previous occasions, adopted resolutions recommending that attorneys donate at least 30 hours per year of public interest legal services. These resolutions are not made available as a matter of course to WSBA members. Formalizing this 30 hour suggested contribution by including it in the Rules of Professional Conduct is a powerful vehicle for insuring that attorneys have a clear benchmark for fulfilling their professional responsibilities, as well as for teaching professional responsibility in law schools.

Defines pro bono legal services: The proposed amendments are substantially similar to Revised ABA Model Rule 6.1, with the following modifications: (i) the words "[E]very lawyer" in the first sentence of the ABA Rule are replaced with "[T]he legal profession," and now reads: "The legal profession has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay."; (ii) the proposed amendments add the words "aspire to" in the second sentence of the ABA Model Rule, and now reads: "A lawyer should aspire to render at least (30) hours of pro bono public legal services per year."; (iii) the proposed amendments remove any suggestion of prioritization of pro bono legal services by deleting the words "a substantive majority of the thirty (30) hours


SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS

RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY (RPC)

RPC 6.1 PRO BONO PUBLICO SERVICE



[CURRENT RULE]

RPC 6.1 Pro Bono Publico Service. A lawyer should render public interest legal service. A lawyer may discharge this responsibility by providing professional services at no fee or a reduced fee to persons of limited means or to public service or charitable groups or organizations, by service in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession, and by financial support for organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.


[PROPOSED AMENDMENTS]

The legal profession has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least thirty (30) hours of pro bono publico service per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyers should:

(a) provide legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:

(1) persons of limited means or

(2) charitable, religious, civil, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and

(b) provide pro bono publico service through:

(1) delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civil, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;

(2) delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or

(3) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

Pro bono publico service may be reported on the annual fee statement furnished to the WSBA. Lawyers rendering a minimum of fifty (50) hours of pro bono publico service shall receive a recognition award for such service from the WSBA.

Reviser's note: The typographical error in the above material occurred in the copy filed by the State Supreme Court and appears in the Register pursuant to the requirements of RCW 34.08.040.

Legislature Code Reviser 

Register

Washington State Code Reviser's Office