Progress on Right to Practice Rolls On, This Time Stopping in Illinois

ACC Position: 

Of all the issues on which ACC advocates, which one is the easiest to rally the support of our Chief Legal Officer members? Arguably, the right to practice pro bono. As devoted readers of this page surely know, one of ACC’s highest advocacy priorities is to promote the right and ability of in-house counsel to provide pro bono service in their communities, regardless of where they are licensed. A number of states are working to make it easier for in-house counsel to give back by amending their rules of practice to allow registered house counsel to provide such services. This helps fulfill a great need for access to justice among the legally underserved.

This week, Illinois moved to the head of the class by implementing a new rule that allows registered house counsel to provide pro bono services without the requirement to work under the supervision of attorneys with Illinois law licenses or of pre-approved legal aid organizations. This change positions Illinois as a national leader on in-house right to practice pro bono. ACC and its Chicago Chapter filed a letter in support of the rule changes in early March. Adding significantly to the impact of the letter was the support of 61 Illinois Chief Legal Officers from companies of all sizes, who lent their names to the effort along with ACC headquarters and Chapter leaders. Click here to read the text of the new rule. ACC’s press release on the Illinois development is here.

With all the talk about “big, bad corporations” these days, the general public might be surprised to learn of the substantial support and resources many companies devote to providing access to justice for the legally underserved. The leadership of our Chief Legal Officer members has been critical in moving this issue forward and is one on which they readily step up to lead. In addition to Illinois, ACC has filed similar letters of support in Florida, Minnesota, and with the Conference of Chief Justices, notably with the signatures of 339 General Counsel.

ACC and its members will continue to work to move this important issue forward and the leadership of our Chief Legal Officer members is critical to the continued success of these efforts. To read about a great in-house pro bono program in action, click here to access our March CLO Perspectives interview with IBM’s Bob Weber in which he talks about fostering a spirit of service that allows pro bono to flourish at IBM.