Rule 3.1: Authorization to Practice Law for Lawyers Volunteering with Approved Legal Services Organizations

Effective Date: 4/1/2013

A. Purpose. Individuals admitted to the practice of law in North Dakota have a responsibility to provide competent legal services for all persons, including those unable to pay for such services. As one means of meeting these legal needs, a lawyer who is or was admitted to practice for at least five years in the courts of any state, district, or territory of the United States, including North Dakota, who volunteers to provide civil legal assistance to individuals who are unable to pay for such services is allowed to do so under the limited circumstances of this rule. A lawyer may be authorized to practice law for the limited purpose of providing such assistance as an unpaid volunteer under the supervision of an approved legal services organization so long as that organization employs at least one North Dakota lawyer not admitted pursuant to any provision of this rule.

B. Definitions.

1. The "active practice of law" means that a lawyer has been engaged in the practice of law, which includes private practice, house counsel, public employment, or academic employment.

2. A "Rule 3.1 lawyer" is any person who is or was admitted to practice in the courts of any state, district, or territory of the United States, including North Dakota, and who has satisfied the authorization requirements under Section C.

3. An "approved legal services organization" for the purposes of this Rule is a non-profit legal services organization that has as one of its primary purposes the provision of legal assistance to indigents, free of charge, in civil matters. A legal services organization must be approved as such by the Supreme Court. The organization must file a petition with the Clerk of the Supreme Court explaining:

a. the structure of the organization and whether it accepts funds from its clients;

b. the major sources of funds used by the organization;

c. the criteria used to determine potential clients' eligibility for services performed by the organization;

d. the types of services performed by the organization;

e. the names of all members of the State Bar of North Dakota who are employed by the organization or who regularly perform legal work for the organization; and

f. the existence and extent of malpractice insurance that will cover a Rule 3.1 lawyer.

There is no fee for filing a petition under this section.

C. Authorization. A lawyer who seeks authorization to practice law under this rule shall file an application with the State Board of Law Examiners that includes:

1. a certificate from the highest court or agency in the state, territory, or district documenting that the applicant is presently licensed to practice law or has been licensed to practice law for at least five of the ten years immediately preceding the date of the application;

2. a certificate from the lawyer disciplinary authority in each jurisdiction where the applicant has been admitted to the bar that the lawyer is not disbarred or suspended or currently undergoing proceedings of disbarment or suspension of the applicant's license to practice law against the applicant in that jurisdiction;

3. a statement signed by an authorized representative of the approved legal services organization that the applicant is or will be an unpaid volunteer under the direct supervision of the organization; and

4. a sworn statement signed by the applicant that he or she:

a. has read and is familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules of the Supreme Court, and the applicable statutes of the State relative to the conduct of lawyers, and will abide by those provisions;

b. submits to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for disciplinary purposes, as defined by the Rules of the Supreme Court;

c. if not presently licensed to practice law, has been engaged in the active practice of law for at least five of the ten years immediately preceding the date of application; and

d. is not under any restriction or probation in the practice of law in any jurisdiction in which the applicant is licensed.

The statement must also indicate whether the applicant has ever been suspended or disbarred from a court in any jurisdiction.

There is no fee for filing an application under this section.

D. Continuing Legal Education. Except for a lawyer presently licensed in this state, a Rule 3.1 lawyer is exempt from the requirements of the North Dakota Rules for Continuing Legal Education. An otherwise exempt lawyer providing legal services under this rule shall, however, fulfill continuing legal education requirements as may be directed by the approved legal services organization under the supervision of which the lawyer provides legal services.

E. Pro Bono Requirement. A lawyer who practices law under the authority of this rule may not receive compensation from the approved legal services organization with which the lawyer is associated, from the lawyer's client, or through a contingent fee agreement. In addition, an approved legal services organization or a client may reimburse any lawyer for actual expenses incurred while rendering services under this Rule.

F. Expiration of Authorization. Authorization to practice law under this Rule expires if the applicant ceases to be supervised as an unpaid volunteer by the organization. If the applicant ceases to be supervised as an unpaid volunteer by the organization, an authorized representative of the organization shall, within ten days of the date that supervision ceased, file a notification of the cessation with the Clerk of the Supreme Court and the State Board of Law Examiners specifying the date supervision ceased. Upon receipt of the notification, the Board of Law Examiners shall notify the lawyer that the authorization to practice law under this Rule has been rescinded.

G. Discipline. In addition to any appropriate proceedings and discipline which may be imposed by the Court under these rules, a Rule 3.1 lawyer is subject to the following disciplinary measures:

1. civil contempt imposed by the presiding judge or hearing officer for failure to abide by a tribunal's orders in any matter in which the lawyer has participated; and

2. withdrawal of the certification under this Rule, with or without cause, by either the Supreme Court or the approved legal services organization.

[Adopted effective March 15, 2009. Amended effective April 1, 2013.]

Effective Date Obsolete Date
04/01/2013 View