APRIL 8 UPDATE:
With the threat of immediate shutdown apparently averted, I have updated the language below slightly to be potentially relevant if the threat returns. It might be a time for pro bono programs to consider contingency planning, and for those who might want to do pro bono work during a shutdown to get contingent approval from those with jurisdiction over ethics rules in their agencies. See below.
APRIL 7 UPDATE:
As this post highlights. the original version of this post failed to alert readers to the need, in the case of most Federal agencies, for attorneys to obtain prior ethics approval before participating in pro bono activity.
Please make yourself fully aware of your agency rules before participating in any pro bono activity. Laura Klein, Pro Bono Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Chair of the Federal Government Pro Bono Program, Laura.F.Klein@usdoj.gov, is happy to answer questions, both about this issue at DOJ or any Federal agency. Her e-mail is Laura.F.Klein@usdoj.gov.
Calling all pro bono coordinators.
Has it struck you that there are going to tens of thousands of bored and Blackberry-deprived lawyers starting on Monday?
If and when there are future shutdowns, there might be pro bono expansion opportunities. While those on shutdown could not take on long term cases, they could surely step in to do attorney of day roles, such as at self-help centers, or informational and brief services provided by legal aid.
How about offering special pro bono trainings next week. The shut down might last long enough to be able to put them to use, but even if not, this is probably not the last shut0down we may be seeing. And some of them, consistent with government rules, may continue in a pro bono role after the shutdowns end.
This may also be a good time to note that DC has a rule Rule 49 (c) (9) (c) that allows pro bono participation by federal employees with non-DC bar memberships — provided it is with “an organization that provides legal services to the public without fee” and under supervision of a DC licensed lawyer. Great model.