The Illinois Supreme Court recently amended Supreme Court Rules 716 and 756 to allow attorneys registered with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) as retired, inactive or house counsel to provide pro bono legal services under certain circumstances in Illinois. The amended Rules were entered on March 26, 2008 and will become effective July 1, 2008. The ARDC is currently developing procedures to implement the amendments.
Currently, an attorney registered as inactive or retired cannot provide any legal services or advice, or hold themselves out to be so able or engaged. House counsel status is for attorneys licensed in another state, but who are employed in Illinois as counsel for a corporation. Under this status, the attorney may perform limited legal services in Illinois solely on behalf of the corporation which employs them. The amended Rule now permits attorneys with retired, inactive or house counsel status to perform pro bono legal services in Illinois, under the following circumstances:
Agencies that would like to be sponsoring entities must submit an application to the Administrator of the ARDC seeking to be qualified under the Rules on an annual basis. Agencies seeking to be qualified under the Rules must provide appropriate training and support and malpractice insurance coverage.
In addition to any existing requirements relating to their status, attorneys with retired, inactive or house counsel status must also seek authorization from the ARDC to provide pro bono legal services on an annual basis. Attorneys registered as retired are not required to pay an annual registration fee. Attorneys registered as inactive or house counsel remain subject to annual registration fees under the Rules. Click here to read the amended Rules in their entirety.
Over the past several months Illinois Legal Aid Online has published many easy to use online automated documents and forms to www.IllinoisProBono.org. If you have not yet discovered them, go to the website, log in, and click on 'Automated Documents/HotDocs' in the Legal Resources library. Automated documents decrease the time it takes to prepare pleadings, forms, letters and other legal documents, while increasing accuracy and efficiency. You no longer need to type the same information multiple times in a document - you only type information once, and then the online system inserts it everywhere necessary. Information entered for one document can also be reused later to populate another document, thereby saving even more time. Automated documents are especially useful for volunteer attorneys who may not be familiar with how to prepare documents for their pro bono cases.
Illinois Legal Aid Online is developing many more automated documents for pro bono attorneys. Soon to be published are a simple will, the statewide order of protection petition and order, and a library of procedural forms including a motion to vacate judgment, motion for substitution of judge, motion to withdraw, motion to quash, motion to continue, fee waiver petition, and many more. Look for these over the next couple months on www.IllinoisProBono.org.
On April 1st a Legal Self-Help Center opened in the Iroquois County Courthouse in Watseka, Illinois. A crowd of nearly 50, including judges, county board members, an appellate court justice, the Circuit Court Clerk, and the Mayor of Watseka, gathered as Chief Judge Clark Erickson hosted a press conference to mark the opening of the center. The center will assist self-represented persons with their legal matters by providing a computer workstation where people can access online legal information via www.IllinoisLegalAid.org. A computer navigator staffs the center and can assist visitors in using the computer, finding the correct information and completing automated documents and forms.Those who need an attorney and qualify for legal services may be referred to Prairie State Legal Services. This center is the 11th such center to open in Illinois, with 8 more scheduled to open by the end of the summer. This project is being led by the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice and Illinois Legal Aid Online, with startup funding for centers provided by the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation. Visit the online Iroquois County Self-Help Center at http://Iroquois.IllinoisLegalAid.org.
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