Court Amends Rule 49 Pro Bono Work Exception to Unauthorized Practice of Law

November 14, 2018

On November 1, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued two orders adopting amendments to Rule 49 of the court’s rules governing unauthorized practice of law, effective January 1, 2019.

The first order amends Rule 49(c)(9) pertaining to the provision of pro bono legal services by a person not otherwise engaged in the practice of law or holding out as authorized or competent to practice law in the District. 

Individuals covered under the amended rule include those affiliated with a D.C.-based nonprofit organization, employees of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia or a nonprofit located in D.C., and persons not barred anywhere but have a pending bar application. 

“Subsection (c)(9) is intended to increase access to justice in the District of Columbia for those unable to afford an attorney by providing an exception to the requirement of admission to the D.C. Bar for lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions (or law school graduates who are awaiting their bar results) to provide pro bono representation, where the requirements of the exception are met,” the court said in its order. 

The amendments also cover notice procedure requirements and the applicability of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct to a person practicing under Rule 49(c)(9)(A–¬C).

The court also amended Rule 49(c)(8) pertaining to the limited duration supervision by a D. C. Bar member of a person practicing law in D.C. during the pendency of that person’s application for admission to the Bar. 

Under the amended rule, the director of the Committee on Admissions, on request and for good cause shown, may extend the time beyond the current length of 360 days.