Dear Baylor Lawyers
I write to encourage you to vote to adopt Proposed Rule 6.05 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. As you know, our current Texas conflicts rule requires that each lawyer ensure that there is not a conflict with a potential client before meeting with the potential client to learn about the situation and give advice and counsel. However, this sound rule does have an unintended consequence. The rule poses a particular hardship for law school clinics and pro bono providers across the state who have walk-in clients, which makes a conflicts check for practicing lawyer volunteers difficult or impossible during the short duration of a clinic for low-income Texans.
This Proposed Rule 6.05 fixes this issue by creating a narrow exception. Proposed Rule 6.05 would allow volunteer lawyers to provide limited advice and brief assistance at pro bono legal advice clinics without worry that they may unknowingly encounter conflicts of interest or that participation in these events will impute conflicts to other lawyers in the firm and prevent the firm from accepting paying clients. If a lawyer decides to provide extended services or full representation, the general conflict rules apply. Collecting eligibility information like income and demographic information will also not in itself create a conflict.
I urge you to vote to adopt Proposed Rule 6.05 because it strikes an appropriate balance between the needs and concerns of lawyers and legal entities, the needs and concerns of the public, and our mandate as Texas attorneys to promote access to justice pursuant to the Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and the Texas Lawyer's Creed. By adopting this Rule, Texas would join 48 other states and the District of Columbia that have incorporated this exception (in various forms) into their own rules of professional conduct. A more complete summary of the rule, written by the State Bar, can be found here.
The efforts of our Baylor Law students, faculty, and staff have resulted in over a dozen accolades from the ABA, the State Bar of Texas, and the Texas Access to Justice Commission since 2010. This Proposed Rule will help Baylor Law’s clinics and pro bono programs continue to flourish.
If you have any questions or concerns about this Proposed Rule, please reach out Stephen Rispoli, Asst. Dean for Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs, at Stephen_Rispoli@Baylor.edu.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW
Established in 1857, Baylor Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,500 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. Baylor Law boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #50 in the magazine’s 2019 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at baylor.edu