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CHICAGO — The Illinois Supreme Court has amended its attorney registration rules to allow retired and inactive attorneys as well as in-house counsel leeway to practice law in the state for the purpose of providing pro bono services. The amended rules authorize attorneys to provide pro bono services in the state as long as they aren’t being paid. The rules also say attorneys must serve people or organizations of limited means, and identify a sponsoring organization, such as a non-profit, school or government entity. The new rules, which were enacted on March 26, will take effect on July 1. The Chicago Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association, has been advocating the rule change for a couple years to help ease a regional shortage of legal aid attorneys, said Bob Glaves, who is executive director of the foundation. About 26 states have similar rules for retired or inactive attorneys and about 12 have such rules for corporate counsel, he said. Glaves estimates that the rule change could ultimately bring about 500 more Illinois attorneys to work on pro bono causes. “It certainly is a good supplement to the limited legal aid resources that we have,” Glaves said. “It helps leverage scarce resources.” Some attorneys have balked at renewing their licenses for pro bono work partly because of the state’s continuing legal education requirements have increased over the past two years, mandating a greater cost and time commitment, Glaves said. We heard that it acted as a deterrent, he said. “Some of these retired lawyers could really put in significant hours,” Glaves said. “The strength in those numbers could really be a lot bigger than they might appear.” Under the new rule, attorneys on “retired” status with the state who still want to do pro bono work will be able skip paying a $289 annual state registration fee as well as annual legal education expenses of about $600, for instance, if taken through the Chicago Bar Association. Retired and inactive attorneys registered for the pro bono work will still be required to take part in any sponsoring organization’s training. Currently, lawyers who are in-house counsel for companies have a limited license to practice law in Illinois if they are fully licensed in another state, but the new rule would extend their license to include pro bono work.

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