Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Retired, Inactive? Consider Pro Bono Counsel Status

Rule 204.6 allows retired or inactive attorneys to volunteer their services with a non-profit organization without paying registration fees.


Spring 2015

The last thing you want to do when you retire is take the bar exam.

Diane Sheehy certainly felt that way in 2009. The family law attorney and her husband had retired, lived in Arizona for years, and were planning a move to Denver. But because Sheehy hadn’t practiced for five of the last seven years, she wasn’t eligible for the reciprocal agreement between the two states. And she wasn’t particularly excited about volunteering at a lower end legal position.

Then she learned about Colorado’s pro bono counsel rule. (Now, Rule 204.6)

“It was a lifesaver,” Sheehy said. “I appreciate being able to use my skills to help people, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without this program.”

The pro bono counsel rule waives normal attorney registration fees for retired and inactive attorneys who agree to limit their practice to volunteer representation for a non-profit entity. Sheehy, for instance, handles divorce matters and custody cases for Colorado Legal Services. She is now one of 84 attorneys who have opted for the status since Colorado implemented the predecessor to Rule 204.6 eight years ago.

“It’s been great for us,” said Jon Asher, executive director of Colorado Legal Services. “Without it, they’d be doing much more limited work, if any at all. Many attorneys wouldn’t volunteer at all because they’d be worried malpractice insurance covering them without a license.”

When Colorado implemented the rule in 2007, it was one of the first states to do so. Now, according to the American Bar Association, 37 jurisdictions have adopted similar rules.

When Sheehy and her husband retired, they didn’t need more income, and she did not want to work full-time. But Arizona, where they lived for the first six years of retirement, didn’t have a pro bono counsel rule, so she worked as a court appointed special advocate. It was good work, but she missed doing full-service legal representation.

At Colorado Legal Services, she helps victims of domestic abuse walk through the often-complicated court system. She said she’s grateful to be able to utilize her expertise.

“I’m just not ready to sit around and do nothing.”

James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator in the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.