Emeritus Attorney Pro Bono: From Rules, to Programs, to Law School Clinics

38 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2019 Last revised: 24 Mar 2020

See all articles by R. Lawrence Dessem

R. Lawrence Dessem

University of Missouri School of Law

Date Written: September 12, 2019


Meeting the legal needs of low-income Americans continues to be a challenge for this country and the legal profession. In an effort to address the nation’s growing “Justice Gap,” 44 jurisdictions have adopted Emeritus Attorney Pro Bono Programs. Senior attorneys who opt for this bar status agree to provide pro bono representation through a legal services program, in return for free or reduced annual bar fees and continuing education requirements.

This article argues that law schools should consider adding emeritus pro bono attorneys to their legal clinics. The article traces the provision of legal services within the United States through both federally-funded legal service providers and private pro bono. While private pro bono has grown in recent years, so has the Justice Gap. In reaction to this growing inability to meet the legal needs of low-income Americans, almost all states have created Emeritus Attorney Pro Bono Programs. The article discusses the growth of such programs, the differences among these programs, and the best and most effective program practices.

The article then describes the development of law school clinical programs, including recent calls for schools to expand clinics to enhance student experiential learning opportunities. The advantages of adding emeritus attorneys to law school clinical programs are discussed, as well as potential accreditation, logistical, and ethical issues presented by such a strategy. While the article concludes that law schools should seriously consider emeritus attorneys as a potential clinic resource, schools must be careful to match the individual skills and experience of potential emeritus pro bono attorneys with the dual teaching and service missions of specific law school clinics.

Keywords: pro bono, clinics, emeritus, senior, clinics, justice, gap

Suggested Citation

Dessem, R. Lawrence, Emeritus Attorney Pro Bono: From Rules, to Programs, to Law School Clinics (September 12, 2019). 44 Journal of the Legal Profession 83 (2019), University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3452334

R. Lawrence Dessem (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO MO 65211
United States

Do you want regular updates from SSRN on Twitter?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics