Model Pro Bono Policy Statement

Sample Memorandum — Lincoln & Douglas Pro Bono Procedures

TO: All Lawyers and Paralegals

FROM: Management Committee

DATE: _______________________, 20__

RE: Pro Bono Procedures

    This firm is committed to support the pro bono activities of its lawyers and paralegals, and has adopted a written Policy Statement expressing the terms of that commitment. The purpose of this memorandum is to outline certain procedures which will be followed within the firm with respect to the firm's Pro Bono Program.

  1. Pro Bono Committee.1 The firm will have a Pro Bono Committee consisting of approximately ___ lawyers and one paralegal appointed by the Management Committee. The committee's task will be to supervise the firm's Pro Bono Program and to encourage lawyers and paralegals in the firm to become active in pro bono activities.

    Although pro bono work encompasses a broad range of activities, the Pro Bono Committee will concern itself with a narrower range of pro bono work, to wit: legal work that a lawyer does for free, which is in lieu of (and of the same character as) legal work one would perform on behalf of a paying client, and which is on behalf of someone who needs assistance and is unable to pay.2

  2. Pre-Acceptance Procedures. Before accepting such a pro bono matter, a lawyer should do two things:
    a. Contact Pro Bono Committee. Call [name of coordinator], or, if he/she is unavailable, call any other member of the Pro Bono Committee. The purpose of this step is to permit a member of the Pro Bono Committee generally to review the matter to make sure (i) that the firm does not have a policy against handling such matters and (ii) that the firm has the resources to handle the matter properly.

    b. Conflict Check. The lawyer should distribute a regular conflict memorandum.3

  3. Opening File and Timerecord. Once a pro bono matter has been approved and cleared for conflicts, the lawyer should open a file and a timerecord. All pro bono matters should be opened under the client designated Pro Bono having the client number XXXXX. The matter designation should include the name of the referring agency, if applicable, and the name of the client. For example, if you take a case on behalf of John Doe through Philadelphia VIP, the full designation should be Pro Bono. re: VIP - John Doe and the number would be XXXXX/#####.4

  4. Legal Services Agreement. The lawyer should prepare and have the pro bono client execute a legal services agreement. The agreement should specifically define the scope of the representation. For matters accepted through Philadelphia VIP, the VIP form may be used. In all other cases, the form of agreement should be approved by [name of pro bono coordinator].5

  5. Associate Evaluations. The firm wishes to ensure that associates' pro bono work is given serious consideration during the annual associate evaluation process. Just prior to each evaluation period, the Pro Bono Committee will request from each associate a short memorandum describing his or her pro bono activities during the last year. The Pro Bono Committee will then forward these memoranda, along with any additional comments from the Pro Bono Committee, to the Associate Evaluation Committee. The Management Committee has instructed the Associate Evaluation Committee to give serious consideration to each associate's pro bono work in the evaluation process in accordance with the firm's Pro Bono Policy Statement.6

  6. Training, Supervision. The Pro Bono Committee should make lawyers in the firm aware of training sessions relating to pro bono areas of the law. Such sessions are presented annually by Philadelphia VIP and other legal service organizations in Philadelphia. Lawyers are encouraged to attend such training sessions.

    Each pro bono case should be supervised in the same manner as fee-generating cases are supervised within the firm.

  7. New Lawyers. The Pro Bono Committee should hold annual meetings with the firm's summer associates and new full-time associates to inform them of pro bono opportunities and of the firm's pro bono policy. These summer associates and new lawyers should be encouraged to make pro bono work a regular part of their practice.

  8. Paralegals. Paralegals are also encouraged to work on pro bono matters. All pro bono legal work by paralegals must be performed under the supervision of a lawyer in accordance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.7

  9. Other Matters. The Pro Bono Committee is authorized to address any other matters which may arise with respect to the firm's Pro Bono Program.


  • Most firms with active pro bono programs have a Pro Bono Committee to supervise pro bono work. It may consist of anywhere from three to ten persons. It is most beneficial for the program if the committee is chaired by a partner. Often a senior associate on the committee is designated as the contact person (or pro bono coordinator) to act as the liaison with the local pro bono programs; referrals come in through this contact person.

    Other firms do not have a committee but rather designate one lawyer or administrator to be the pro bono coordinator.

  • There are many definitions of what constitutes pro bono work. The definition included in the memorandum is a narrow definition encompassing only true legal work for the indigent and the disadvantaged. Other more general charitable and civic work can be encouraged by the firm but probably does not require coordination by the Pro Bono Committee.

  • The firm's regular conflict procedure should be followed for pro bono matters.

  • Of course, every firm has its own filing and timerecords systems. To ease administration, pro bono matters should, to the greatest extend possible, be treated in the firm's filing and timerecords systems the same way billable matters are treated.

  • The firm may wish to prepare a form of legal services agreement for pro bono matters based on the Philadelphia VIP model. This form of agreement can then be attached as an exhibit to the Pro Bono Procedures Memorandum.

  • This procedure should be adjusted to conform to your firm's associate evaluation process. The important point is that the evaluators (a) be aware of each associate's pro bono activities and (b) give positive credit to associates for their pro bono work.

  • Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5.3.