In 2002, the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted new rules impacting pro bono service by the bar. As part of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 19-306.1 (also Rule 6.1) refined the definition of “pro bono publico” to include an aspirational goal of 50 hours of legal service annually for all full-time lawyers with a substantial portion of those hours being dedicated to serving people of limited means. By clarifying what qualifies as pro bono legal service, the Court transformed the vague notion of doing service “for the public good” into specific, tangible, and quantifiable activities.
Note: “Unless an attorney is prohibited by law from rendering the legal services described below, a substantial portion of the applicable hours should be devoted to rendering legal service, without fee or expectation of fee, or at a substantially reduced fee, to (A) people of limited means; (B) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organizations in matters designed primarily to address the needs of people of limited means; (C) individuals, groups, or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights; or (D) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, or educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes when the payment of the standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would otherwise be inappropriate.”
The Court also created a Court of Appeals’ Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Service (Rule 19-501, formerly Rule 16-901), established local pro bono committees in each county (Rule 19-502, formerly Rule 16-902), and mandated reporting of pro bono hours by each licensed attorney on an annual basis (Rule 19-503, formerly Rule 16-903) (as opposed to mandating pro bono service). It is through the mandatory reporting process that Maryland is able to quantify the number and type of pro bono hours being donated and evaluate how the system needs to be improved.
IMPORTANT ANNUAL DATES FOR ATTORNEYS TO REMEMBER:
- June 1, 2019 – Rule 19-802 required attorneys to register with the Attorney Information System (“AIS”) by this date.
- July 10 – On or before July 10 of each year, AIS will generate and send electronically to each attorney who is responsible for an assessment, or who has volunteered to contribute to the Fund, a notice of assessment for the next ensuing fiscal year. The AIS email will include notice to comply with the Federal Tax Identification Number disclosure and notice to comply with the pro bono and IOLTA reporting requirements.
- August 31 – Deadline for submitting a notarized Affidavit of Inactive/Retired Status for that fiscal year. Status changes requested on time will become retroactively effective July 1 of that same year.
- September 10 – On or about September 10 of each year a late fee of $25 will be assessed if the invoiced assessment has not been paid.
- September 10 – Pro Bono and IOLTA reports are also due by this date.
- January 10 – On or about January 10 of each year an additional late fee of $50 will be assessed on any outstanding balance due on the fiscal year invoice.
- February 10 – Pursuant to Rule 19-606, 19-409 and 19-503, as soon as practicable after February 10 each year, AOC shall electronically send a Notice of Default to each attorney who has failed to pay the CPF assessment in full, including late fees and charges for dishonored checks, and/or failed to provide their federal tax identification number or statement that there is no such number to the Fund, and/or has not filed the required IOLTA Compliance Report, and/or has not filed the required Pro Bono Legal Service Report.
- March 10 – No later than March 10 each year the AOC shall prepare, certify and transmit to the Court of Appeals a proposed Temporary Suspension Order and/or Decertification Order stating the names and Fund account numbers of those attorneys who failed to comply with the above stated obligations. At their discretion, the Court signs the Temporary Suspension and/or Decertification Order, usually at the March or April Conference.
Rule 19-503 was amended in December 2018 to require Maryland lawyers to register with the Attorney Information System (AIS), and to permit the creation of a single compliance schedule so that reporting is done on a fiscal basis. Attorneys will receive an email notification once per year, in July, advising that the Client Protection Fund assessments, Tax ID updates, and Pro Bono and IOLTA reports are all due September 10 of each year.
All attorneys authorized to practice law in Maryland must file an annual Pro Bono Legal Service Report of their pro bono services hours by September 10 each year, even if they did not provide pro bono services. They must also file an annual Interest on Lawyer Trust Account report (IOLTA) by September 10 each year, even if they do not have an IOLTA account.
All attorneys are now required to file online. For instructions on how to file Pro Bono and IOLTA reports, please visit the judiciary’s website at www.MDCourts.gov. At this site, attorneys can also retrieve their personal ID numbers, find a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the reporting process, and find a copy of the pro bono rules. Please email any questions or comments to email@example.com.
We encourage all attorneys to set up recurring calendar appointments with pop-up reminders for July 10 of every year with the www.MDCourts.gov site noted therein; that will allow two months for compliance by the September 10 deadline. Please note that the Courts will not mail notices or forms for reporting. ALL communications regarding Pro Bono reporting and IOLTA compliance will be sent from the Courts via email, according to the amended Rule 19-503. If an attorney does not file, the Court will issue an order to decertify the attorney, prohibiting him/her from practicing. There is a $50 fee for recertification (in addition to filing the missing reports).