Rule 6.1 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct reads, in part, as follows:

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.

What this means is that the 50 hours of pro bono work is voluntary. Lawyers are not required to perform the pro bono work and many do not. All of the attorneys I work with, however, do at least 50 hours of pro bono work each year.

With customers who have no obligation to pay you, you’ll find there are a multitude of different issues that can come up. Your clients may not trust what you have to say because they didn’t pay for it. I’ve actually had a client ask me if she should speak to a real lawyer about the issue. I must have given away my disappointment with my face because she immediately took it back. Other clients will enjoy overly utilizing your services or wasting of your time. I’ve had clients stand me up for meetings because they weren’t losing anything by not attending and I’ve had others run onto every tangent possible because my time was not billed.

None of this article is meant to suggest that pro bono clients are more of a hassle than paying clients because that’s not true. Many of the same issues arise with paying clients and other issues present themselves as well. A few of my pro bono clients have been the best and most rewarding experience I’ve had as a practicing attorney.

In order to ensure that some of the earlier mentioned issues occur less often, we’ve created a system at Law++ where our clients will exchange community service time for our legal help. We require our clients to pay it forward before we help them, leaving them less likely to feel like they’re receiving something of little or no value and it ensures that our clients understand that we’re not helping them because they’re entitled to our help, rather that we want to help others and therefore they should as well.

Note: Not all clients qualify to be taken on as pro bono clients. Only those who actually need free or reduced price legal services will be given this opportunity.

There you have it. Our plan for a successful pro bono program in our firm is to make our clients pay us in hours worked opposed to money. Since they’re contributing to charitable causes, everyone is benefiting from their involvement in this program.

If you have any questions about this or other related topics, please feel free to contact Richard Bobholz at richard@lawplusplus.com or by calling (919)912-9640.

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