Supreme Court approves requirement for attorneys to report pro bono hours

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Starting Jan. 1, 2015, Indiana attorneys will be required to report the number of hours they provide free legal assistance to indigent clients.

The Indiana Supreme Court has approved a mandatory pro bono reporting requirement to be amended into Rule 6.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Issued Sept. 2, the amendment explains the reporting requirement and defines what constitutes pro bono service.

Attorneys will have to report, as part of their annual registration, the number of hours of pro bono service provided. However, their hours will not be publicized. The Supreme Court followed the recommendation by a special task force formed byt he Indiana Pro Bono Commission that the hours worked not be identified publicly or on either an individual or firm basis.

The task force concluded the “stick approach” of public disclosure would not be as effective long term as a “carrot approach” for encouraging attorneys to volunteer their legal expertise.

Attorneys will also be able to report any financial contributions they have made to a legal service organization or pro bono district.

Any member of the judiciary or judicial staff, government lawyer, or attorney who is retired or of inactive status will be exempted from the reporting requirement.

The Supreme Court is defining pro bono service as free legal services given directly to or for the benefits of individuals whose incomes do not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Pro bono, according to the court, does not include forgiving a client’s unpaid bill or providing services meant to improve the law, the legal system or the legal profession.  

The Supreme Court issued 12 other orders last week amending rules of court.

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