Emeritus pro bono attorney registration category now available to “seasoned” attorneys

Aug. 7, 2017

By Jane Taylor

When Ohio attorney registration renewal opened in July, retired attorneys—or any attorney with at least 15 years in practice and a clean disciplinary record—for the first time had a registration category geared toward attorneys no longer engaged in the active practice of law, but not ready to put their legal skills out to pasture completely.

Emeritus pro bono enables attorneys, for a significantly reduced registration fee, to practice law as a pro bono attorney volunteer for a law school clinic, legal aid, public defender's office, or any legal services organization already authorized by the Supreme Court to report CLE credits earned through pro bono service.

OSBA Senior Lawyers Section members may remember that the OSBA Masters at the Bar Task Force, in its 2010 final report, recommended creation of the emeritus attorney registration category to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court chose to not publish the proposed rule for comment.

Adoption was recommended again in 2015, this time by the Court's own Task Force on Access to Justice, and on the strength of that recommendation the OSBA again proposed an emeritus rule. This time, the Supreme Court published the rule for comment, and ultimately adopted it, with an effective date o​f Sept. 15, 2016. The Senior Lawyers Section worked with the Access to Justice Committee to craft the rule and argue for its adoption before the justices in an administrative conference.

The eligibility requirements included in the rule may seem complicated at first read, but they basically boil down to 1) at least 15 years in practice and 2) clean recent disciplinary record. Lawyers who have resigned, resigned with discipline pending, or have relinquished a law license from another state to avoid disciplinary action in that state, are not eligible for emeritus pro bono attorney status.

Attorneys who have formally retired from the practice of law by turning in their license to the Supreme Court are likewise not eligible to become an emeritus pro bono attorney, as being on retirement status with the Ohio Supreme Court is irrevocable. The law license won't be returned for any purpose.

However, an attorney who is registered as active or inactive may transition to emeritus pro bono status, and back, if the attorney finds he or she wishes to resume the active practice of law, or if he or she needs to discontinue pro bono work. The category provides the ability to try out pro bono work without losing the ability to resume active practice should circumstance warrant.

Attorneys on active status who choose to renew their attorney registration in the emeritus pro bono attorney registration category will find their biennial registration fee reduced from $350 to $75, but CLE requirements will remain the same as they are for an attorney on active status. The full CLE requirement is to protect members of the public who may become clients of an emeritus pro bono attorney, but it is also expected that organizations for whom the emeritus pro bono attorneys volunteer will offer CLE credit-eligible training to pro bono attorney volunteers at no cost to the volunteer.

Interested? All the information you need is housed on the Supreme Court website.

In addition to completing the standard Certificate of Registration required for any attorney registration, or any change to attorney registration status, a prospective emeritus pro bono attorney must complete a one-page Emeritus Pro Bono Attorney Registration and Certification. In this form, the attorney certifies that the attorney meets all criteria set forth in the rule for emeritus pro bono attorney registration category, as explained above.

The emeritus pro bono attorney must also submit a competed Certification of Pro Bono Organization, in which a representative of an organization listed in the rule verifies that the prospective emeritus pro bono attorney is "associated" with the organization. The certification addresses the rule's intent that benefits of emeritus pro bono status inure only to those who are actual pro bono volunteers.

Prime Time readers are welcome to contact me if readers have additional questions about emeritus pro bono status. My direct dial is (614) 715-8568, and my email address is jtaylor@olaf.org.

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