Before accepting a case, Participating Attorneys must first check for conflicts with firm clients and may need to prepare a new matter memo or take other internal steps. If there is a Pro Bono Liaison with Legal Aid at the firm, please contact that person about how to proceed.
Acceptance of a Legal Aid pro bono matter establishes an attorney-client relationship with the Legal Aid client. For representation of individuals (other than juveniles) in civil matters, the terms of the relationship are set forth in the Legal Aid Letter of Engagement (“Engagement Letter”) signed by the client, attached hereto as Exhibit B (1). To avoid the need for a law firm to send its own form of engagement letter to a Legal Aid pro bono client, Legal Aid designed the Engagement Letter to address concerns of law firms in accepting pro bono matters by prescribing a defined scope of legal services, the payment of reasonable costs, and the right to terminate the relationship for cause. The letter also articulates the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship and the law firm’s ability to represent adverse parties and interests consistent with ethical principles. The Engagement Letter endeavors to express these complex issues in plain English as well in Spanish and other languages spoken by our clients. Because an individual client may engage Legal Aid before a law firm is assigned to such matter, the Engagement Letter is written to cover any law firm that may become involved with the matter. Once a law firm is involved, Legal Aid sends the client a letter advising him or her of the involvement of the law firm; the client then returns a signed copy of that letter to Legal Aid as an acknowledgement of the law firm’s participation in his or her matter. The costs that typically would be incurred in a matter, including publication costs in an adoption or matrimonial case or the fees for taking a deposition, are the responsibility of the law firm. In accepting a Legal Aid matter, the law firm is agreeing to the above provisions and to the Engagement Letter serving as the sole retainer agreement for the matter.
(1) The Legal Aid Engagement Letter applies to representation of individuals in civil cases. Criminal and juvenile rights matters are assigned to Legal Aid by the courts. Legal Aid and law firms view their attorney-client relationship in those cases as having been set by the court in making the judicial assignment to Legal Aid. In addition, a different retention arrangement may apply for matters involving the representation of not-for-profit entities.
Most of Legal Aid’s clients are eligible to proceed as poor persons, eliminating some litigation costs. In an unusual case, potential costs may arise that are not covered by a Forma Pauperis order and are substantially higher than what might be considered reasonable expenses for a matter of that nature. If the law firm is unwilling to be responsible for such expenses, please contact Mr. Weschler or Ms. Halpern to discuss the issue before incurring such expenses.