I have just received heard from Laura Klein, Pro Bono Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Chair of the Federal Government Pro Bono Program, on the issue of pro bono participation by attorneys during the possible shutdown, as suggested by my prior blog.
Attorney Klein points out that pro bono participation by Federal Government attorneys requires prior ethics approval for those working in most (although not all) federal agencies, and that this applies even to short term work such as that suggested in my prior blog post, or research roles. Inevitably, the ethics offices will be closed, so it will be impossible to get such approval during the shutdown, although there is nothing to stop attorneys seeking and obtaining such approval prior to the shutdown taking effect. Doing such work without prior approval would subject Federal attorneys to potential problems.
I guess the obvious moral is, find out your agency’s rules and follow them.
Attorney Klein is happy to answer any questions so long as she is at her desk (i.e. till any takes effect!) This offer to answer questions or to make referrals of questions covers those working anywhere in the Federal Government, not just DOJ. Thanks to attorney Klein, both for this timely caution, and for her willingness to be of help. Her e-mail is Laura.F.Klein@usdoj.gov.
Maybe this will at least provide some stimulus to expanding federal employee pro bono in the future.