State Bar Update: What the Expansion of Conflict of Interest Exceptions Means for Pro Bono Service

Over the last 18 months, SALSA has retooled, reshaped, and expanded to meet increased community need. In the wake of the pandemic, veterans and other vulnerable populations in our community need more help with legal issues, ranging from homelessness to expunctions. And with the increased need, comes the necessity of volunteers. Thanks to the latest results of the State Bar of Texas Rules Vote, serving as a pro bono volunteer with SALSA just became less complicated.

Ballot Item D: Conflict of Interest Exceptions for Nonprofit and Limited Pro Bono Legal Services [1] passed in an overwhelming fashion, with almost 90% of participants voting to expand the conflict of interest exception to include limited advice and brief assistance on a pro bono basis.[2]

“Removing barriers to performing pro bono service is critical to addressing widespread community need in underserved communities in our local area. The enhancements made to Rule. 6.05 of the Disciplinary Rules are a great step towards the goal of increasing access to justice throughout Texas,” San Antonio Legal Services Association Executive Director Sarah Dingivan said.

Allan K. DuBois, a former State Bar President (2015-2016), trustee of the Texas Bar Foundation, and adviser to the Military and Veterans Law sections and the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program and Legal Services to the Poor committees is a champion of the recent rule change and sees it as an opportunity to recruit more volunteers to provide critical assistance for veterans.[3]

We have USAA here, the largest insurer for military families/veterans, and they are volunteers. Many lawyers in San Antonio are veterans, too, and potential volunteers. SALSA would benefit from a broader area of attorney expertise in more practice fields to increase the volunteer rosters and enhance our community outreach in Military City, USA,” DuBois said.

Over the summer, SALSA returned to small in-person legal clinics and launched Military Mondays. Every Monday from 4-7pm at the Starbucks just off Fort Sam Houston (2414 Harry Wurzbach), SALSA provides free legal advice on civil legal issues to veterans who are unable to afford an attorney. Since the return of in-person clinics, SALSA has seen an uptick in clients, driving the need for more volunteer attorneys to devote their time.

Some lawyers can be reticent to provide pro bono legal services because they don’t know how to navigate the conflicts process. The update to Rule 6.05 of the Disciplinary Rules will ease this uncertainty, especially for practitioners in larger firms, opening up the door for new volunteers to provide the types of limited assistance that we routinely see in the context of SALSA veteran legal advice clinics,” SALSA Staff Attorney Joe Pina, a retired Army Major who among other projects, has spearheaded SALSA’s partnership with the Veteran’s Treatment Court (VTC) of Bexar County.

If you are interested in learning more about Military Mondays and other opportunities to provide limited advice and brief pro bono assistance, click HERE.




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