Thursday, July 26, 2018
On May 9, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved Pennsylvania Rule of Disciplinary Enforcement 403, recognizing an emeritus status for attorneys who retire from the practice of law and seek to provide pro bono services to legal aid organizations.
Emeritus programs serve as a pool of qualified volunteer attorneys to provide services to those in need. Emeritus attorneys can perform valuable roles in the community by bolstering legal aid and other nonprofit programs to help close the gap between the need for and the availability of free legal services.
In order to transfer to emeritus status in Pennsylvania, an attorney must be on retired status. The retired attorney must complete six hours of continuing legal education within one year prior to the application date as a prerequisite to transferring to emeritus status. The emeritus applicant must verify that he or she is authorized solely to provide pro bono services, is not permitted to handle client funds, and is not permitted to ask for or receive compensation. At the time of application, the applicant must pay a registration fee of $35.
Emeritus attorneys can renew their status on an annual basis, paying an annual fee, or can "transfer back" to retired status. While on emeritus status, they are subject to annual continuing legal education requirements.
Pennsylvania doesn't tend to rush to adopt "new" ideas, and thus it is relatively late among the states to approve such a program. Emeritus programs have existed for quite some time. For more on them, see the white paper on "Best Practices and Lessons Learned," authored for the ABA in 2010 by David Godfrey and Erica Wood. See also the 2016 updated report by David Godfrey and April Faith-Slaker.