This article suggests that the current version of Rule 6.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct has not achieved its objective of fostering universal public and pro bono service among lawyers, and proposes a change to the current rule that hopefully will be more successful in achieving these laudable objectives. From the earliest days of the Anglo-American legal profession, lawyers have understood public, or pro bono publico, service to be fundamental to their identity as professionals. During the last half of the 20th century, however, this evolution became a revolution, as pro bono increasingly came to be identified with free legal services to indigent clients, and public service as all other uncompensated legal work.
This article addresses whether it is time to redefine the duty enunciated in Rule 6.1 to include both legal services to the poor and broader public service. Part II of the article explores the historical context of pro bono publico and public service among lawyers and the history of lawyers’ public service tradition. Part III reviews the economic impact of providing pro bono services for law firms. A part of this discussion will be the extent to which lawyers and law firms are presently engaging in pro bono services under the current non-mandatory rule. Part IV further analyzes the ethical duties enunciated in Rule 6.1, including the philosophical underpinnings for a broad duty in society for citizens to contribute to the public good. This argument suggests that all members of a civilized society have a duty to sustain the society (civitas), whether they are lawyers or bricklayers, and that each must contribute according to his or her talents for society to work.
Gary A Munneke & Eileen Eck, Re-defining Pro Bono: Professional Commitment to Public Service, 1 Charlotte L. Rev. 21 (2008).