DBTC Law Firm

Lawyers and Mandatory Tithing

Mandatory Rules of Professional Conduct regulate the professional behavior of attorneys. A breach of these rules can lead to sanction and even loss of the right to practice law. They cover many areas of which the public is generally aware, such as avoiding conflicts of interests, being truthful and honest to the court, confidentiality of client information, and declining spurious lawsuits. Less known is the ethical obligation of each lawyer, each year, to contribute at least 50 hours of pro bono publico (free) legal services, as well as to contribute financial support for legal services to persons of limited means.  These contributions ethically required of lawyers’ time approximate at least $7,000 per year in free legal services for  the community and its indigents from each licensed Arkansas attorney. Despite abundant criticisms and jokes of lawyers’ ethics, we are proud that the legal profession may be the only vocation that obliges its members to tithe for the public good. Our firm performs these services in many ways, from assisting indigent clients, to providing service to legal boards, to providing support for the proper regulation and supervision of the practicing bar. Sometimes, these donated services can be quite challenging and  interesting.

An exhaustive list of the pro bono publico services performed by this firm would be too lengthy and boring to recite. But here are some examples of how our firm is proud to serve its ethical obligation to assist the public through its legal abilities:

In order to assure competency of new lawyers, each applicant for a law license, in addition to having a law degree, a clean background and recommendations of good character, must pass an intensive and rigorous examination on the law–the “Bar Examination”–which takes two full days and typically has a passing rate of approximately 80%. The importance of fairly, thoroughly and objectively grading these examinations is obvious. The lawyers who grade the exams are chosen from prominent attorneys throughout Arkansas and appointed for a six-year term as “Bar Examiners” by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Such service requires approximately 80  hours per year of uncompensated time. We are pleased that a member of our firm has served as a Bar Examiner.

The formal, written rules of civil litigation, designed to make it as simple, fair and efficient as possible, require periodic review and updating, ultimately for the benefit of everyone who may find themselves in a civil lawsuit. Updating is accomplished through a select committee of experienced lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court. Our members have served and chaired that committee.

Charitable agencies through Northwest Arkansas are necessarily in the business of raising money to spend for community needs. Every dollar that can be saved in their operational costs is a dollar that goes to the good of the community. Service on the boards of these agencies is specifically included within the ethical requirements for public service where such service saves critical resources for the charity’s purposes. Over the years, various members of our firm have been proud to serve on the boards of organizations such as the Northwest Arkansas Community Foundation, Lifestyles Foundation, Inc., Fayetteville Public Library Foundation, Inc., Habitat for Humanity, Inc., Fayetteville Youth Center, Friends of the Fayetteville Public Library, Washington Regional Hospice Program, Fayetteville Autumnfest, The United Way, Buffalo River Foundation and the Legal Aid Equal Access to Justice Panel.  In that capacity, they provide assistance in drawing bylaws, contracts and other legal documents necessary and helpful to those organizations so that their limited resources can be applied to further community benefit.

Our firm has provided presentations to local charities for the disabled on how special trusts can provide benefits for developmentally challenged individuals without losing the substantial government benefits for their care and training.

The firm, through its members, provides substantial financial support to the Arkansas Equal Access to Justice (Legal Aid) Foundation, and accepts assignments to represent clients for free from both Legal Aid and Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly. Such cases that we have handled for free include these:

  • negotiate the restructure of a mortgage to avoid foreclosure for a gentleman whose divorce, followed by his disability, left him with insufficient funds to pay his current mortgage payments;
  • assist in the adoption, by a grandmother, of a child whose parents were imprisoned drug abusers;
  • represent an unemployed father in a custody battle with the unemployed mother of three young children;
  • represent a single mother/student with young children in her claims against a landlord for wrongfully evicting her in the middle of the winter;
  • assist grandmother in securing guardianship of grandchildren from their drug- addicted daughter to her sister;
  • assist a blind client, whose roommate had stolen his identity, cash and credit, with discharging the resulting fraudulent credit charges and criminally prosecuting the roommate.

Though the performance of these free legal services are mandated under our ethical code of conduct, we find that our firm, through its members, regularly exceeds the obligation to perform such services to our community, and are proud to fulfill these obligations to the excess.

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