ACC argues that proposed amendment, Rule 712B, would effectively curtail many of the pro bono services encouraged by Rule712(i)
WASHINGTON (June 21, 2019) — The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global legal association representing more than 45,000 members in 85 countries, has expressed serious concerns to the Kansas Supreme Court over proposed Rule 712B, which limits in-house lawyers’ ability to provide pro bono services.
In its letter to the Court, ACC argues that proposed amendment, Rule 712B, would effectively curtail many of the pro bono services encouraged by Rule712(i), which was passed last year. Rule 712B establishes a process by which pro bono volunteers must submit documentation of good status and identification of a supervising attorney. It also has a narrow definition of eligible legal service providers, limiting the types of organizations in-house counsel on restricted licenses can work with to provide these vital legal services.
Last year, ACC and the ACC Mid-America chapter submitted comments to the state Supreme Court supporting the proposed amendment of Supreme Court Rule 712, which allowed in-house counsel practicing on a restricted license to provide pro bono services through a court-approved non-profit provider of legal services or law school clinic. ACC encouraged the Kansas Supreme Court to further increase access to justice by allowing these in-house counsel to provide pro bono services without affiliating with a court-approved non-profit provider of legal services or law school clinic. The amendment ultimately passed with the affiliation requirement, and proposed Rule 712B contains the procedures by which a non-profit provider of legal services or law school clinic becomes approved by the Kansas Supreme Court.
However minor and administrative some of the proposed requirements may be, the unique challenges of finding pro bono volunteers magnifies their effect. Feedback from pro bono clinics held by ACC chapters confirms this: availability for pro bono work can come up unexpectedly, and requires agility and flexibility on the part of providers, who are already scarce. These changes could discourage lawyers from volunteering because they require a burdensome process that must be completed far in advance of the actual pro bono work.
“The restrictions put forward in this amendment do not ultimately help the people of Kansas who benefit from pro bono services, any more than they help the in-house volunteers,” said Mary Blatch, senior director of advocacy at ACC. “Registered in-house counsel in Kansas already submit themselves to nearly the same standards of character and fitness, as well as the same annual registration process, as full members of the Bar. This amendment puts unnecessary burdens on lawyers who want to provide pro bono services. No one gains from this. We urge the Supreme Court to reconsider this proposal.”
To read the Kansas letter, visit https://www2.acc.com/advocacy/upload/Kansas-Rule-712B-Letter-FINAL.pdf.
About ACC: The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organisations through information, education, networking, and advocacy. With more than 45,000 members in 85 countries employed by over 10,000 organisations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, visit www.acc.com and follow ACC on Twitter: @ACCinhouse.