You have presented a hypothetical situation in which an attorney
receives a client by referral from the Legal Aid Society with the
agreement that the case would be handled on a pro bono basis. 
Subsequently, the attorney negotiates a fee agreement with the
client and ultimately receives a fee.

Under the facts you have presented, you have asked the committee to
opine as to the propriety of an attorney requesting and accepting
a fee from a client who is referred by the Legal Aid Society as a
pro bono case.

The appropriate and controlling disciplinary rule relative to your
inquiry is DR 1-102 A (4) which states that a lawyer shall not
engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or
misrepresentation which reflects adversely on a lawyer's fitness to
practice law.

The importance of pro bono legal services is highlighted in EC 2-
27, which states in part, "the rendition of free legal services to
those unable to pay reasonable fees continues to be an obligation
of each lawyer...Every lawyer should support all proper efforts to
meet this need for legal services."   

In your inquiry, the Legal Aid Society sought to pursue that
critical public purpose by referring clients in need of free legal
services to private attorneys who agree to provide services free of
charge for their time.  For an attorney to agree to receive cases
on a pro bono basis from Legal Aid and then, with no notice to the
Legal Aid Society, to extract a fee from the referred client is a
clear misrepresentation regarding the attorney's fulfillment of the
Society/attorney referral agreement.  The committee opines that,
due to the importance of the availability of free legal services to
the public, the misrepresentation by the attorney in your inquiry
does constitute a violation of DR 1-102A(4).

[DR 1-102(A)(4); EC 2-27]

Committee Opinion
December 9, 1996