Pro Bono Rule on In-House Counsel Gains Support

, New York Law Journal

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In-house counsel groups and nearly 40 chief legal officers from corporate law departments are endorsing a proposed rule that would allow in-house counsel who are not licensed in New York to represent pro bono clients.

Under the proposed rule, registered in-house counsel could appear before any tribunal or court in the state, without the need to seek pro hac vice admission, associate with a legal services provider or work under the supervision of a New York-licensed attorney. They would remain prohibited from making appearances other than in pro bono matters.

The Association of Corporate Counsel, the ACC's three chapters in the state and 38 New York chief legal officers wrote a combined letter in support of the rule, which was proposed by the Advisory Committee on Pro Bono Service by In-House Counsel. Chief legal officers from Anheuser-Busch InBev; Cushman & Wakefield; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; MetLife Inc.; and Viacom were among those endorsing the change.

In their public comment, the groups said current state rules prevent many corporate counsel from fully engaging in pro bono services.

"New York's in-house attorneys are smart, experienced, responsible, and zealous, no matter where they received their law licenses," the letter said. "The pending amendment simply recognizes that all of New York's in-house lawyers should be able to serve pro bono clients with the same excellence that they already serve their employers."

Public comments on the proposal were due Oct. 31. There was no opposition among the comments released by the Office of Court Administration.

The rule must still be approved by the New York Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals Judge Victoria Graffeo, chair of the advisory committee, has said she hopes the proposal will be adopted by the end of this year.

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