By Laura Higbee
Being an attorney in the District gives you a myriad of opportunities to work on civil rights and civil liberties issues. DC or federal work, litigation or policy, career or pro bono. Are you looking to add civil rights to your pro bono work? Need ideas for how to start? Come to the Summer Pro Bono & Public-Interest Forum’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties panel to learn about how our expert panelists got to where they are, what they enjoy most about their practice, how they make time for pro bono work, and more.
Our esteemed panel includes:
Anika works in the Professional Development Office of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. She joined DOJ in 2010 at Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division, which works to protect the civil rights of people in state and local institutions among other goals. From 2005 to 2007, Anika was a Prettyman Fellow in the clinical program at Georgetown University Law Center. She spent the first year of her fellowship representing indigent clients and the second year supervising third-year law students representing cases in misdemeanor and juvenile courts.
Leila Abolfazli (National Women’s Law Center)
Leila serves as the Director of Federal Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center. She works on a range of issues involving the protection and expansion of reproductive rights at the federal level. Before first joining NWLC in 2011, Leila was a Senior Associate at WilmerHale in Washington, D.C. From 2016-2018, she was a teaching fellow at Georgetown University Law Center, returning to NWLC after completing the fellowship. She is a graduate of Emory University and Georgetown University Law Center.
Danielle Conley (WilmerHale)
Danielle is a partner and Co-Chair of WilmerHale’s Anti-Discrimination Practice. She first joined the firm in 2006 and made partner at only 34. From June 2015 through January 2017, Danielle took a sabbatical from WilmerHale to serve as an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice, where she worked on high-stakes civil rights enforcement matters. Danielle also has significant pro bono experience, including two Voting Rights Act cases, one Title VII case, and one Fair Housing Act case. In 2017, she was named one of Washingtonian magazine’s 40 under 40.
Robyn Bender (DC Office of the Attorney General)
Robyn is the current and first Deputy Attorney General of the Public Advocacy Division, which was formed in February 2017. The Division brings lawsuits on behalf of District residents and concentrates on safe and affordable housing, wage theft, and public integrity cases. Before returning to the District, Robyn spent over four years in the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, where she managed all the litigation and staff in the Consumer Protection, Civil and Environmental Litigation, and Rate Intervention Divisions. She also represented the Office in multistate investigations and litigation.
Puneet Cheema (Lambda Legal)
Puneet recently joined Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest organization that advocates for LGBT equality, as a staff attorney in the DC office. She started her legal career at the Department of Justice through the Honors Program. She worked in the Civil Division for about four years before transferring to the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division. At Civil Rights, Puneet worked on several major cases, including DOJ’s investigation of the Baltimore Police Department for constitutional and federal civil rights violations. She also helped negotiate the consent decree between the Department and the City of Baltimore.
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Laura Higbee is a member of the Washington Council of Lawyers Communications Committee.