Pro bono practice status allows inactive and out-of-state lawyers to serve their community by providing pro bono legal assistance to indigent clients through a nonprofit legal services provider. Lawyers granted pro bono practice status will not incur membership dues from the North Carolina State Bar and will not be required to complete mandatory continuing legal education (though CLE may be taken if desired). Pro bono lawyers have opportunities to serve indigent clients in a variety of practice areas and levels of service. This handout provides a summary of: how to obtain pro bono practice status, frequently asked questions, forms, and links.
To obtain pro bono status:
- Complete the appropriate petition and have petition notarized.
- Petition for Emeritus Pro Bono Status. Use this form if you are an inactive North Carolina lawyer or active North Carolina lawyer seeking inactive status simultaneous to submission of the emeritus petition. You must provide discipline related documents if applicable. If you are a lawyer licensed in another jurisdiction, see below.
- Petition for Pro Bono Practice by Out-of-State Lawyers. Use this form if you are an out-of-state lawyer, whether inactive in your out-of-state jurisdiction or currently active. Out-of-state lawyers must provide a certificate of good standing from all jurisdictions and discipline-related documents if applicable.
- Identify an active North Carolina lawyer in good standing at a supporting nonprofit legal services corporation to serve as a supervisor. The supervising attorney must complete the Statement Regarding Supervision.
- Submit all forms and supporting documents to the North Carolina State Bar, Membership Department, P.O. Box 26088, Raleigh, NC 27611. Materials should be submitted at least thirty days prior to the Council meeting when you want your petition to be considered. Council meetings are held annually in January, April, July, and October (see calendar of upcoming Council meetings).
- Questions? Call Sylvia Novinsky at 919.890.1094
- Read more about retired and out-of-state lawyers with pro bono status in the Winter edition of the North Carolina State Bar Journal. (see page 14)
- Read more about corporate counsel with pro bono status in the Association of Corporate Counsel Charlotte chapter newsletter.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I required to pay membership dues while in pro bono status? Inactive lawyers, including those with emeritus status, do not pay membership dues. Out-of-state lawyers also do not pay membership dues to the North Carolina State Bar.
- Under pro bono status must I continue to fulfill continuing legal education requirements? Mandatory continuing legal education is not required by the North Carolina State Bar for pro bono practice lawyers, whether inactive with emeritus status or out-of-state. If you are interested in attending continuing legal education seminars, you are certainly still eligible to do so. Various legal services providers often host free CLE trainings for those who have agreed to serve as volunteer lawyers.
- Is there a minimum requirement for the number of pro bono hours that emeritus pro bono lawyers or out-of-state pro bono lawyers must complete each year? No, there is no minimum requirement.
- Because I am inactive, I no longer carry malpractice insurance. Will the supporting nonprofit organization provide coverage? Most legal services providers that frequently utilize pro bono lawyers include coverage for volunteer work in their malpractice insurance policy. You should ask the supporting nonprofit organization if their policy will cover you.
- Why do I need a supervising attorney? Per the statute which allows creation of a pro bono status for inactive or out-of-state lawyers, N.C.G.S. 84-16, lawyers granted pro bono status must work under the supervision of an active member of the North Carolina State Bar working within a nonprofit corporation qualified to render legal services. Despite your experience in the field, the supervising lawyer will be the active North Carolina lawyer with ultimate responsibility for your work and cases.
- Who is eligible to serve as a supervising lawyer? The supervising lawyer must be a licensed member of the North Carolina State Bar in good standing. The lawyer must work at a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to low-income individuals. The lawyer must submit a statement agreeing to supervise the emeritus or out-of-state pro bono lawyer.
- Where can I volunteer? What opportunities are available for pro bono service? Pro bono opportunities are available in a wide variety of practice areas and can accommodate varying time commitment. If you need help finding a pro bono opportunity in your area, call Sylvia Novinsky at 919.890.1094.
- What are the guidelines for appearing in court? A lawyer with Pro Bono Practice Status may represent an eligible person in any proceeding before a federal, state, or local tribunal, including an administrative agency, if notice of pro bono status is given to the tribunal or agency by the pro bono lawyer and the supervising lawyer approved the representation. A statement advising the tribunal or agency of the lawyer’s Pro Bono Practice Status shall be filed with the tribunal and made a part of the record in the case. The State Bar Council’s Order granting Pro Bono Practice Status may be used for this purpose. For additional information, see the Guidelines for In-Court Practice found on the petitions linked above.
- Petition for Emeritus Pro Bono Status
- Petition for Pro Bono Practice by Out-of-State Lawyer
- Statement Regarding Pro Bono Supervision
- Share this handout with attorneys interested in Pro Bono Status for inactive or out-of-state attorneys.
- Visit the Retirement FAQ section of the North Carolina State Bar website for information about the process of obtaining inactive status. If you have other questions about inactive status, contact the State Bar’s Membership Department at 919-828-4620.
- Connect with the Transitioning Lawyers Commission of the North Carolina Bar Association for information about planning and preparing for retirement from the practice of law including information about intervention and resources for caregivers.
- Administrative Rules related to emeritus pro bono and out-of-state pro bono practice:
- Subchapter A, Section .0200, .0201(c)(2)(E) – creating pro bono emeritus as category within inactive status of membership;
- Subchapter D, Section .0900, 0901(b)(3) – standard for granting petition for pro bono emeritus status; and
- Subchapter D, Section 0900, .0905 – rules for out of state lawyers seeking pro bono emeritus status.