The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 5, December 2010
Understanding Insurance Coverage for Pro Bono Legal Service
By Susan V.R. Billington QC, Policy and Program Counsel, Law Society of Alberta
AS WITH ALL legal services, a lawyer must be an active and insured member of the Law Society to provide pro bono legal services. The Rules of the Law Society facilitate the provision of pro bono legal services by lawyers who otherwise may not be insured to provide legal services to individual clients. Provision of the services are restricted however, in accordance with Rule 148 (2.1)
Members who are active and insured lawyers (members of the private bar) are insured to provide legal services to clients whether or not they charge a fee for the legal service. When providing pro bono legal services through a pro bono clinic, other pro bono program or doing the legal work for free in the course of private practice, the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association insurance provides errors and omissions (E & O) coverage for pro bono legal services delivered.
Corporate/Government insurance exempt lawyers:
Corporate/government lawyers are active members of the Law Society and exempt from the insurance provisions of the Rules of the Law Society pursuant to Rule 135 and Rule 148. This category of members swears a statutory declaration that they will not provide legal services outside the scope of their employment.
The Benchers of the Law Society of Alberta and the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association (ALIA) have facilitated the extension of errors and omissions insurance coverage through ALIA to corporate/government lawyers when they provide pro bono legal services through an
authorized pro bono provider as listed in Rule 148(2.1). For example, this means that corporate and government lawyers can provide pro bono legal advice through one of the pro bono clinics such as Edmonton Community Legal Clinic or Calgary Legal Guidance.
Pro bono legal services or advice provided to a neighbour, or a friend are not included in the insurance coverage for corporate/government exempt lawyers.
Active for pro bono legal services only:
Lawyers who are inactive or retiring can be a great source of volunteers for pro bono legal service providers such as the pro bono clinics. Many lawyers at this stage of their professional careers want to continue to be active in providing legal advice and want to continue to contribute by providing pro bono legal services. The barrier is the cost of maintaining their active status and insurance coverage.
The Benchers of the Law Society have created a membership category for those lawyers who want to remain active by delivering pro bono legal service through an authorized pro bono provider.
Members seeking the status of “active for pro bono services only” must:
- be eligible for reinstatement to the Law Society;
- apply to the Law Society of Alberta for the membership category “active for pro bono service only”;
- pay the applicable fee (inactive member fee); and
- swear a statutory declaration that they will only provide pro bono legal service through an authorized pro bono provider as outlined in Rule 148(2.1) of the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta.Once in this membership category, the member must provide some legal service through the authorized pro bono service provider.
Legal services provided to a neighbour or a friend, even though they may be pro bono (free) are not included in the insurance coverage for members in the “active for pro bono legal services” category, unless of course, those services are delivered through an authorized pro bono provider.
Members should be aware that the time in the “active for pro bono service only” category will not necessarily be counted towards their eligibility for reinstatement to full active, insured status.
The insurance coverage for pro bono legal services for the “government/corporate” and for the “pro bono legal services only” membership categories is available only for pro bono services delivered through an authorized pro bono provider as listed in Rule 148(2.1) of the Law Society of Alberta Rules.
Authorized Pro Bono Providers:
Calgary Legal Guidance
Central Alberta CommunityLegal Clinic
Edmonton Community Legal Centre
Lethbridge Legal Guidance
Volunteer Lawyers Service
Children’s Legal and Educational Resource Centre
Grand Prairie Legal Guidance
If you have any questions about membership status and insurance coverage for pro bono legal services, please contact PBLA or Lisa Sabo, Director, Insurance, Law Society at 403-229-4717 or the Law Society’s Membership Department.
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