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Pro Bono Attorneys Deskbook
Malpractice for Pro Bono Attorneys



Attorneys working for state, local or federal government, corporate attorneys and retired attorneys usually do not carry malpractice insurance for private legal work.  This can be a barrier to doing pro bono work.  The state of Missouri in 2004 began providing malpractice coverage for attorneys providing legal services without compensation. (Section 105.711.2(5), RSMo. SB 1247, 92d General Assembly.)


To be eligible for this protection the attorney must be:

  • Licensed to practice in Missouri,

  • Providing legal services without compensation, and

  • Practicing through a nonprofit, tax-exempt community social service center or a federal, state or local government agency.

 NOTE:  This coverage does not apply to attorneys working independently.  The pro bono attorney must be practicing “through” a nonprofit or government agency.  The attorney need not be working for the agency but is taking referrals from, collaborating with or otherwise practicing “through” the agency.  This coverage is one of several advantages of collaborating with an agency.


The coverage maximum is $500,000.  If the attorney also has malpractice insurance, the state protection pays first. (Section 105.711.4, RSMo.)


The Missouri attorney general is the administrator of the program and authorized to promulgate rules regarding the program.  (Section 105.711.4, RSMo.)


The rules (15CSR 60-14.010, et seq.) require the nonprofit community social service center through which any attorney practices without compensation to provide to the attorney general a copy of its federal tax exemption letter or other verification of its tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


Under the rules the attorney general maintains a record of coverage (15CSR 60-14.030(5)).  The assistant attorney general administrating the program will issue and acknowledgement letter showing registration.  A copy of this acknowledgement and the registration should be retained by the attorney and agency as proof of coverage.


The rules prescribe what the attorney must do to register for coverage.


“(A) The attorney provides to the center or agency in writing his or her name, address, place of employment, if any, daytime telephone number and Missouri Bar number;

(B) The attorney is assigned clients, cases or matters by the center under procedures adopted by the center or agency, not to include clients assigned by court order;

(C) The attorney has no preexisting attorney client relationship with any client under which a fee has been collected or contracted for;

(D) The attorney agrees in writing at the outset of any representation or consultation

that no fee will be charged, sought or accepted for representation or consultation regardless of the outcome of the representation or consultation; and

(E) The attorney does not discriminate in providing legal services on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin or ethnic background.”  (15CSR 60-14.020(1))


What constitutes practicing law “without compensation” is also defined by the rules.


(A) Neither the attorney nor the center receives, or contracts for the receipt of a fee, donation or contribution of money, goods, services or any other thing of value in any way related to the attorney’s legal representation;

(B) The attorney does not receive a salary, hourly wage or any other thing of value from the center or agency;

(C) The attorney does not receive a salary, hourly wage or any other thing of value from any person, firm, corporation, partnership or any other source in any way related to the attorney’s practice of law at or through the center or agency; and

(D) No other individual or entity, other than the client and/or his or her heirs, assigns and beneficiaries, receives anything of value in any way related to the attorney’s services at or through the center.  (15CFR 60-14.020(2)) 


A sample enrollment form is included in the forms section. 


Annually in June the nonprofit agency or government agency is obligated to provide the Attorney General the name, address, telephone number, Missouri Bar number (or other proof that the attorney is licensed in Missouri), an estimate of the hours per year worked and a general description of the area of practice.  (15CFR 60-14.030(2).)


Client records may be maintained by the attorney or at the nonprofit or government agency.  (15CFR60-14.030(3).)



Malpractice coverage is also available to attorneys who volunteer with Legal Services.  The Legal Services office for your county can be located from their website


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