Pro Bono Conflicts Ask-a-Lawyer

Learn how Nevada lawyers can participate in ask-a-lawyer pro bono programs. Read this article by Michael Wendlberger published in the bar journal COMMUNIQUÉ (May 2024)

By Michael Wendlberger, Esq.

Ask-a-Lawyer programs offered by legal aid organizations are an excellent way for attorneys to give back to the community in a limited time. Today, many ask-a-lawyer events occur telephonically, reducing the time commitment to assisting those in need—there is no need for attorneys to drive across town to provide consultations. Attorneys can help expand access to justice from the comfort of their home or office.

But what about conflicts? When an attorney takes on a new case, they must run conflicts to ensure they are not conflicted out of a matter due to the representation of a current or prior client, see Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7 & 1.9.

How does an attorney from the comfort of their home run conflicts before engaging in an Ask-a-Lawyer program? The answer is short: they don’t. An attorney who wants to participate in an Ask-a-Lawyer program with a legal aid provider falls under an exception found in NRPC Rule 6.5. Under rule 6.5 (a)(1), an attorney “Is subject to Rules 1.7 and 1.9(a) only if the lawyer knows that the representation of the client involves a conflict of interest”… (emphasis added). Thus, an attorney without actual knowledge of a conflict can proceed with the free consultation. Of course, if an attorney sees a name and knows it’s a conflict, then the attorney must decline to provide consultation to that person. Note – If an attorney knows of a conflict with a firm member, the attorney will not continue the Ask-a-Lawyer. Otherwise, the Ask-a-Lawyer can proceed.

NRPC 6.5 provides attorneys an excellent way to get involved in pro bono. The attorney is not creating an ongoing attorney-client relationship and allows for brief consultations without the necessity of going through the conflict check process. The rule encourages attorney participation on every level, from private practice to government attorneys in city attorneys’ offices, attorney general offices, district attorneys’ offices, and prosecutors’ offices. Everyone can participate. The only requirement is buy-in from the top of these organizations, allowing their attorneys the green light to do pro bono and give back to the community. 

About the author

Michael Wendlberger, Esq. is the Director of the Pro Bono Project at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The Pro Bono Project pairs volunteer attorneys with screened clients in the areas of family, consumer, landlord tenant, civil rights, immigration, bankruptcy, and other areas of law. Interested attorneys should contact Michael at 702 386-1429 or mwendlberger@lacsn.org.

About the article

© 2024 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

This article was originally published in the Communiqué (May. 2024), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2024/communique-may-2024.

The articles and advertisements appearing in Communiqué magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the CCBA, the CCBA Publications Committee, the editorial board, or the other authors. All legal and other issues discussed are not for the purpose of answering specific legal questions. Attorneys and others are strongly advised to independently research all issues.

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