Effective July 1, 2002, the Court of Appeals revised Rule 6.1 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct to recommend that lawyers strive to render 50 hours of pro bono service annually, with a substantial portion of those hours being devoted to representing the poor or organizations that advance the needs of the poor, without expectation of fee or with the expectation of a substantially reduced fee. As revised, the rule states that the responsibility to render pro bono service is not mandatory, and leaves in place a provision permitting lawyers to discharge their pro bono responsibility by making financial donations to legal services organizations of their choosing.
Also effective July 1st, the Court of Appeals adopted three new rules pertaining to pro bono service by lawyers; 16-901, establishing a Standing Committee of the Court of Appeals on Pro Bono Legal Service; 16-902, providing for the creation of local bono Committees and plans in each county; and 16-903, requiring lawyers to report their pro bono activities annually. Rule 16-901 establishes a statewide Standing Committee on Pro Bono Service comprised of eight lawyers, a member of the public defenders office, a circuit court judge, a district court judge, a legal services organization representative, and a member of the public. The Standing Committee will serve as a clearinghouse for pro bono materials, study long-range pro bono issues, receive plans and annual reports from Local Pro Bono Committees and non-confidential data from individual Lawyer Pro Bono Reports, offer guidance to Local Pro Bono Committees, and prepare a State Pro Bono Action Plan for submission to the Court of Appeals by July 2005.
Rule 16-902 creates Local Pro Bono Committees in each county in the State. Comprised of lawyers, legal services representatives, and members of the public, the Local Committees are to survey the need for pro bono service in their counties and the available resources to meet those needs. Based on those findings, the Committees are then to design Action Plans to promote pro bono service to address the unmet need for services. There are no mandatory practices or procedures applicable statewide, but general guidelines on approaching the planning process and components to include in local plans will be available through the Standing Committee. With the approval of the Standing Committee, Local Pro Bono Committees in adjoining counties can work together to develop a single Action Plan.
Finally, Rule 16-903 requires all
Maryland licensed attorneys to file annual Pro Bono Legal Service Reports
stating the number of hours of pro bono service they rendered or contributions
they made to legal services organizations in the previous year. The reports,
which are confidential, will be distributed by early January and due by
February 15th.A lawyer who fails to file a Report after receiving
notice of default will be decertified and prohibited from practicing law.
Filing the delinquent Report can recertify the lawyer. A lawyer cannot
be decertified for not performing pro bono service - - only for
not filing the Pro Bono Legal Service Report. The purpose of required reporting
is to obtain accurate information about the amount and nature of pro bono
service being rendered by Maryland lawyers, to track the results of the
Local Pro Bono Action Plans, and to provide reliable data from which to
make decisions regarding the funding and planning of legal services programs
Pro Bono Rules