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The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 3, July 2012


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

Insurance Coverage for Pro Bono Legal Service

By Susan 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. The provision of the services is restricted however, in accordance with Rule 148 (2.1).

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 Law Society has created a membership category and the Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association (ALIA) provides insurance coverage for those lawyers who want to remain active by delivering pro bono legal service through an authorized pro bono provider.

Lawyers seeking the status of “active for pro bono services only” must:

  1. Be eligible for reinstatement to the Law Society;
  2. Apply to the Law Society of Alberta for the membership category “active for pro bono service only”;
  3. Pay the applicable fee (inactive member fee); and
  4. 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 lawyer must provide some legal service to the authorized pro bono service provider.

Legal services provided to a neighbour or a friend, even though they may be pro bono 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.

Lawyers 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.

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 Law Society of Alberta and 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 friends are not included in the insurance coverage for corporate/government exempt lawyers.

The insurance coverage for pro bono legal services for the “government/corporate” and for the “active for 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).

Authorized Pro Bono Providers:

  • Calgary Legal Guidance
  • Central Alberta Community Legal 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 Pro Bono Law Alberta or Lisa Sabo, Director of Insurance, Law Society at 403-229-4717 or the Law Society of Alberta Membership Department.

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