Want to Retire, but Still Volunteer? Apply for Emeritus Pro Bono Membership

A mentor and her mentee.

Are you planning to retire, but afraid to give up your “active” license? Or perhaps you are thinking about changing careers and leaving the legal profession, but still want to volunteer? Or maybe you are a parent or primary caregiver that does not need an “active” license but still wishes to volunteer from time to time? Whatever the reason is, there is a simple solution: Apply to become a WSBA Emeritus Pro Bono member.

Many Washington lawyers tend to overlook the option to continue volunteering after retiring from active practice. In efforts to bring greater attention to volunteer opportunities in the legal community, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) has recently made changes to provide retiring lawyers with easier access to pursue volunteer activities.

The process is simple. Instead of changing to “inactive” status or resigning your license, you can apply for Emeritus Pro Bono membership by completing the following requirements:

  1. Filing an application for Emeritus Pro Bono status
  2. Showing proof of active legal experience in Washington for at least five of the 10 years immediately preceding the application
  3. Completing the Emeritus Pro Bono training requirement
  4. Paying the Emeritus Pro Bono license fee (reduced fee equal to that of an “inactive” member)
  5. Filing a certification from a Qualified Legal Services Provider (QLSP) with whom you intend to volunteer.

QLSPs are nonprofit legal service organizations registered with the WSBA and dedicated to serving low-income clients. There are over 40 QLSPs throughout the various counties in Washington state.

The requirements of Emeritus Pro Bono Membership are codified in Washington’s Admission and Practice Rules (APR). Previously located at APR 8(e), as of September 2017, the amended rule is located at APR 3(g). While the Emeritus Pro Bono Membership was previously available to lawyers licensed in other jurisdictions, the most notable revision in the September 2017 amendments restricts the Emeritus Pro Bono Membership to only WSBA members.

In addition to the ability to continue to volunteer for low-income clients and give back to the legal community, the Emeritus Pro Bono Membership provides the added benefits of: no MCLE requirements, no minimum service hours, reduced license fees, free access to Public Service CLEs, service hours qualifying for pro bono publico hours (see RPC 6.1), the ability to serve on or join WSBA Committees, Panels, Boards, and Sections as allowed, and more! Notably, changing to “emeritus” status does not have to be permanent — you can apply to return to “active” status at any time.

There is certainly no shortage of individuals that could use your legal aid, and the WSBA is working to ensure there is no shortage of opportunities to lawyers willing to volunteer their time. Learn more about the Emeritus Pro Bono Membership.