Providing justice for all is central to the mission of the Oregon State Bar. To come closer to this mission, the Oregon State Bar makes it easy for lawyers to provide Pro Bono legal services and recognizes those who give their time to help Oregonians with low incomes.
Pro Bono Highlights
- You can meet the OSB Aspirational Standard of 40 hours of direct pro bono service by volunteering under 1 hour a week.
- You can find the right place to volunteer with the Pro Bono Directory.
- You can receive one hour of CLE credit for two hours of qualified pro bono—MCLE Regulation 5.300.
- You do not need to do a full conflict check when volunteering in a legal clinic providing short-term, limited help—RPC 6.5.
- You do not need PLF coverage to participate in an OSB Certified Pro Bono Program.
- You can choose Active Pro Bono Bar status instead of retiring. Get reduced Bar fees and no CLE requirements.
- You can apply for special admission to do pro bono work as House Counsel or an experienced attorney from another state.
- You can access free resources to help with your pro bono cases: CLEs, pleadings, court reporters, and paralegals.
Getting Legal Help
The Pro Bono Program does not match clients with pro bono attorneys. Use the following resources to find free or low-cost legal assistance:
- Get free online legal information at the OSB Public Information Site and OregonLawHelp.org
- Find your local legal aid office using the OregonLawHelp.org Directory. Legal aid offices offer free legal help to income-qualified Oregonians in priority legal subjects.
- Receive a lawyer referral from the OSB Lawyer Referral Service Modest Means program at 800-452-7636. Modest Means attorneys charge reduced fees to income-qualified Oregonians.
The Oregon Pro Bono Aspirational Standard
In 1989, the members of the Oregon State Bar adopted the Pro Bono Aspirational Standard as a goal for Oregon attorneys. Additionally, the Oregon Supreme Court has recognized the importance of pro bono legal services by making supporting pro bono activities part of the Oregon State Bar Statement of Professionalism.
“Pro bono publico or pro bono service includes all uncompensated services performed by lawyers for the public good. . . Each lawyer in Oregon should endeavor annually to perform 80 hours of pro bono services. Of this total, the lawyer should endeavor to devote 20 to 40 hours or to handle two cases involving the direct provision of legal services to the poor, without an expectation of compensation. If a lawyer is unable to provide direct legal services to the poor, the lawyer should endeavor to make a comparable financial contribution to an organization that provides or coordinates the provision of direct legal services to the poor.” - OSB Bylaws, Section 13.1
What does the aspirational standard mean?
Oregon lawyers are encouraged to provide 80 hours of unpaid service to their communities each year. That 80-hour total includes all kinds of volunteer community work from giving free legal help to serving on a nonprofit, church, or community board. Even things like volunteering to clean up litter or volunteering to coach an organized kids' sports team count.
Additionally, Oregon lawyers are encouraged to dedicate 20 to 40 of those volunteer hours to providing direct pro bono legal services to Oregonians with low incomes. If a lawyer cannot provide direct pro bono legal services, they are encouraged to donate to an organization that provides those services.
Who can provide direct pro bono legal services?
There are ways for any active member of the Oregon State Bar to provide direct pro bono legal services. Active members—other than Active Pro Bono members and those practicing under some special admission rules—who maintain their own PLF coverage can volunteer with any pro bono program or take pro bono clients as part of their regular practice. All other active members can volunteer with Certified Pro Bono Programs. Additional members who can volunteer with Certified Pro Bono Programs include Active members who do not have PLF coverage, Active Pro Bono members, and Members admitted under the House Counsel rule or the Out-of-state Active Pro Bono rule.
Creating a Culture of Pro Bono
To help law firms make pro bono a part of their workplace culture, the OSB Pro Bono Committee developed the Pro Bono Policy Toolkit. The toolkit makes it easy for firms to create a written pro bono policy. Adopting a written Pro Bono Policy is part of the Multnomah Bar Association's Pro Bono Pledge.
Finding a Place to Volunteer
The Oregon State Bar maintains a directory of both certified and non-certified pro bono programs across the state. Look for the words “OSB Certified” in the right margin of the directory to find Certified Programs. The directory makes it easier for lawyers to find volunteer opportunities that match their interests and location.
Reporting Pro Bono Time – The Pro Bono Roll Call
Oregon Attorneys are encouraged to report their pro bono time voluntarily as part of the Pro Bono Roll Call by logging into the online member portal and selecting “Pro Bono Reporting” in the Regulatory Notifications section. Reporting Pro Bono time helps the Bar and legal aid better target programs for Oregonians with low incomes.
Recognition for Lawyers Who Give
The Pro Bono Honor Roll annually recognizes Oregon lawyers who provided at least 40 hours of direct pro bono legal services in the preceding year. Additionally, the Pro Bono Challenge recognizes the lawyers, law firms, and law students who contributed the most time to direct pro bono legal services. The Honor Roll and Challenge Awards show how Pro Bono is an important part of Oregon's legal culture.
MCLE Credit for Volunteering
You can get one hour of MCLE credit for every two hours of covered volunteer time. You can claim up to six credits per full reporting period—three credits in a short reporting period. Some activities are automatically approved, like doing pro bono work with an OSB Certified Program, others are at the discretion of the MCLE Program Manager. MCLE credit encourages attorneys to provide more pro bono work.
Relaxed Conflict Checks for Some Pro Bono Activities
With RPC 6.5, when lawyers participate in some pro bono programs providing short-term limited legal services like a drop-in refer and advise legal clinic, conflict check requirements are relaxed. RPC 6.5 makes it easier for lawyers to volunteer when they have no known conflicts of interest.
Certified Pro Bono Programs
Certified Pro Bono Programs make pro bono legal work available for Active Bar members who do not have PLF coverage, Active Pro Bono members, and Members admitted under the House Counsel rule or the Out-of-state Active Pro Bono rule. Oregon's legal practice rules prevent these members from taking pro bono clients unless they do their pro bono work through a Certified Program. Additionally, the Bar screens Certified Programs to make sure they provide liability coverage to volunteers either through their host organization's liability policy or through PLF Pro Bono Coverage.
Look for the words “OSB Certified” in the right margin of the volunteer opportunity directory to find Certified Programs. Certified Pro Bono Programs make it possible for every Active Oregon State Bar member to volunteer.
Getting a Pro Bono Program Certified
Pro Bono programs that meet the Bar's requirements set out in Bylaw Section 13.2 and show that they have policies and procedures to ensure volunteers provide good quality legal services can become Certified Pro Bono Programs. When reviewing programs, the Bar focuses on how they train and support attorneys, match clients to appropriate attorneys, and track clients. Programs must also show that they provide liability coverage to lawyer volunteers either through their host organization's liability policy or through PLF Pro Bono Coverage. PLF Pro Bono Coverage is extended, free of charge, to certified programs that meet the PLF's requirements Per PLF Policy 3.800.
Active Pro Bono Status
The Oregon State Bar created Active Pro Bono Status in Bylaw Section 6.101 as an alternative for lawyers considering retired or inactive status. Active Pro Bono Status has the reduced fees and regulatory requirements, like no CLEs, of retired and inactive status while allowing lawyers to continue to represent pro bono clients through Certified Pro Bono Programs. Active Pro Bono members may only practice law through Certified Pro Bono Programs; any legal practice beyond the confines of a Certified Pro Bono Program requires the attorney to transfer to regular Active Status and in most cases requires PLF coverage. Active Pro Bono Status lets Oregon lawyers retire from the daily practice of law but continue to help those most in need.
Special Admission Rules
In special circumstances, the Admission Rules of the Oregon State Bar allow members of other state bars to limitedly practice in Oregon. Two of the specialty admission categories specifically allow participation in Certified Pro Bono Programs. First, the Admission of House Counsel Rule, 16.05, allows members of other bars to apply to limitedly practice in Oregon as in-house counsel. Included in the work House Counsel Admittees can perform is pro bono work with Certified Programs. Second, the Out-of-state Active Pro Bono Admission Rule, 17.05, allows experienced members of other bars to seek admission in Oregon for the limited purpose of taking Pro Bono clients from Certified Pro Bono Programs. These Special Admission rules allow attorneys from any state a way to be part of Pro Bono in Oregon.
Pro Bono Celebration
During the last week of October each year, the Oregon State Bar participates in the National Celebration of Pro Bono. During this week, the Bar holds its annual Pro Bono Celebration including free CLEs, a fair where attorneys can connect with pro bono programs, presentation of the Pro Bono Challenge awards, and a reception to recognize the efforts of all the Oregon lawyers who do their part for pro bono.
Pro Bono Resources
The following resources can help attorneys successfully provide pro bono legal services.
- Legal Information & Resources for Attorneys: From Oregon's legal aid providers, OregonAdvocates.org offers free streaming CLEs, pleading templates, and training materials for lawyers doing pro bono work.
- Pro Bono Court Reporters: The Oregon Court Reporters Association Pro Bono Program can help with two- to four-hour depositions when a lawyer is working on a pro bono case. Contact Holly Goodwin, OCRA Pro Bono Chair, (208) 964-4237, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pro Bono Paralegal Assistance: The Oregon Paralegal Association Pro Bono Program provides paralegal assistance to lawyers working on pro bono cases. Contact Kelley Chaney, RP, Pro Bono Committee Chair, (503) 242-9621, email@example.com.
- Interpreters: The Oregon Judicial Department provides interpreters for all court proceedings, and has an online interpreter request form. The OJD also has a list of Certified and Registered Court Interpreters many of whom interpret outside the courtroom for a fee. For non-court-certified assistance outside of the courtroom, telephone language interpreting is also available for a fee from commercial providers.
Volunteer, Give, Bank
Volunteering to do pro bono work is just one of the three steps you can take to help make sure there is justice for all in Oregon. Here is the whole list:
- Volunteer to represent low-income Oregonians.
- Give to the Campaign for Equal Justice to fund civil legal aid in Oregon, or give to another organization that provides direct legal help to low-income Oregonians.
- Bank where it matters. At Oregon Law Foundation Leadership Banks & Credit Unions, your IOLTA deposits provide significantly more funding for civil legal aid.
Pro Bono Regulations
- Active Pro Bono Status: OSB Bylaw 6.101
- Aspirational Standard: OSB Bylaw 13.1
- Certified Pro Bono Programs: OSB Bylaw 13.2
- MCLE Credit for Pro Bono Work: MCLE Regulation 5.300
- Relaxed Conflict Checks for Certain Pro Bono: RPC 6.5
- Oregon State Bar Statement of Professionalism
- Out-of-state Active Pro Bono: Admission Rule 16.05
- House Counsel work with Certified Pro Bono Programs: Admission Rule 17.05
Pro Bono Committees
In addition to providing direct legal services, Oregon attorneys can support pro bono through a number of statewide and local bar pro bono committees.
Oregon State Bar Statewide Pro Bono Committees
- Oregon State Bar Pro Bono Committee – Develops policies and strategies to build a pro bono culture in the state of Oregon.
- Oregon New Lawyer Division (ONLD) Access to Justice Committee– Helps Oregon's new lawyers develop a passion for public service while gaining practical legal and leadership skills.
- OSB Public Service Advisory Committee – Guides the Bar's public outreach efforts including the Lawyer Referral Service which operates the Modest Means Program and the Military Assistance Panel and Problem Solvers pro bono programs.
- OSB Appellate Practice Section – Operates the Appellate Pro Bono Program.
- OSB Debtor-Creditor Section Pro Bono Committee – Works with Legal Aid Services of Oregon to operate Pro Bono Bankruptcy Clinics in various locations.
- OSB Taxation Section Pro Bono Committee – Monitors emerging issues in the low-income tax community and supports low-income tax clinics. Presents the Tax Section Pro Bono Award.
Local Bar Association Pro Bono Committees
- Clackamas County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee – Operates the Clackamas County Expungement clinic in partnership with Legal Aid Services of Oregon and operates the Clackamas County Lawyer in the Library Clinic.
- Deschutes County Bar Association – Operates the Deschutes County Lawyer in the Library Program.
- Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Pro Bono Committee – Provides leadership and professional development opportunities for young lawyers in pro bono work and administers the Portland area Wills for Heroes Foundation clinic.
- Multnomah Bar Association Professionalism Committee – Works to increase the formal commitment of lawyers to pro bono work with the Pro Bono Pledge.
- MBA / LSAO / OLC Pro Bono Committee – Selects the recipients of the annual MBA-LASO-OLC Pro Bono Awards and prepares the Annual Pro Bono issue of the Multnomah Lawyer.
William Penn, Assistant Director Legal Services Program