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April 2021


Required pro bono reporting to begin in 2022

The Minnesota Supreme Court has issued an order granting the MSBA’s petition requesting changes to the Rules of Lawyer Registration, effective January 1 of next year. The petition asked that attorneys be required to report the number of pro bono hours they complete each year, and whether they made any financial contributions to a legal services program serving low-income people. These questions will be part of the form attorneys complete when they renew their licenses. The MSBA will work with the Lawyer Registration Office and the Court to provide more complete information to its members and the bar about the reporting obligation prior to the effective date.

The new rules do not require attorneys to do pro bono. That is an aspirational goal (spelled out in Rule 6.1 of our Rules of Professional Conduct) that attorneys undertake when they become licensed. Although the question of how many pro bono hours Minnesota attorneys contribute is frequently asked, there is currently no valid or complete answer. The MSBA’s North Star Lawyer program, which recognizes MSBA members who contribute 50 hours or more of pro bono service, has seen a dwindling number of attorneys qualify over the years. Yet the need for pro bono service has not diminished. It may be greater than ever before, particularly once the eviction moratorium is lifted. Required reporting of pro bono hours will inform us how well we are living up to the commitment we made to do pro bono. Reporting will also facilitate more targeted pro bono attorney recruitment efforts. 

The MSBA wishes to thank Timothy Droske of Dorsey & Whitney, who volunteered to draft the petition and speak on behalf of the MSBA at the public hearing. Thanks also to the Access to Justice Committee for their work on this issue.

 
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