Sometimes it seems lawyers have a Latin phrase for everything: Self-represented litigants? They’re pro se. The thing speaks for itself? Res ipsa loquitur. Volunteer legal work? That’s pro bono to us.
While attorneys have had an English word and Latin phrase to describe this last category, many public attorneys in North Carolina have historically had no mechanism for actually doing it. That’s because, until last July, G.S. 84-2 prohibited district attorneys, public defenders, and others from “engag[ing] in the private practice of law.” A person practices law when he or she provides legal services for another, regardless of whether the person is compensated for the work. See G.S. 84-2.1.
Recent amendments to G.S. 84-2, however, allow some public attorneys who were previously disqualified to carry out certain types of pro bono legal work.