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Photo: Greg Lipper

2014 Above & Beyond Award: Gregory Lipper (Americans United for Separation of Church and State)

Greg Lipper was introduced to Washington Council of Lawyers in 2011 by Taryn Wilgus Null, our then-President and at the time a colleague of Greg’s at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, where Greg is a First Amendment litigator. Taryn invited Greg to attend one of our programs with her, and introduced him to some of our other members. Fast forward: Greg joined our Board of Directors in 2012, instantly became the Chair of our brand-new, but sorely needed, Communications Committee, and revolutionized our outreach, communications, and impact. Greg’s tireless work ethic, quick wit, and razor sharp editor’s pen have transformed the way we reach DC’s public interest community. Some attorneys have even commented that they ENJOY reading our emails! Under Greg’s leadership, we started an active, lively Twitter account; before Greg, we didn’t even know what Twitter was. Greg and his team on the Communications Committee have launched us into photos, graphics, Facebook, Storify, Flickr, Tumblr, and an overall “bettr” way of working towards our mission of promoting pro bono service and the public interest practice of law. We asked our board members what they liked best about Greg, and here is what they had to say: Greg gives 110% to everything he does. Greg is always pushing the envelope and successfully encouraging the Washington Council of Lawyers to reach new heights. His energy and enthusiasm know no bounds. Greg possesses an uncommon blend of humor, sincerity, and intellect. Greg brings new ideas and ways to use technology to advance our core mission with such excitement for our work. Greg has pushed and pulled us into the 21st century in terms of our use of social media. His energy and enthusiasm are boundless. Plus, he makes me laugh—a lot. Greg constantly challenges everyone around him to be more thoughtful, rigorous and excellent. He changes the very nature of any conversation and dialogue with his presence. The council is a far more energetic and current organization because he is on its Board. Greg has tenacity! Greg has played a critical role in the marketing and inter-connectedness of the Council with its members and the public. Kudos to Greg! Greg’s energy, creativity and technical expertise makes him an indispensable member of the Council. I admire his willingness to advocate for a position in light of opposition—his willingness to challenge the board makes us a stronger organization. Greg gets things done as soon as the idea is out of someone’s mouth! I’m grateful for his very helpful combination of dedication, energy and efficiency! There are too many good things about Greg to be able to mention them all here – I will email with a bit more reflection to pare it down! I will Tweet my comments about Greg. We are grateful for all of Greg’s work, and we are delighted to recognize him with our Above and Beyond Award.

Photo: Sidley DC Employees

2014 Law Firm Award: Sidley Austin

Our 2014 Law Firm Award goes to our longtime friends at Sidley Austin LLP. Sidley is a global law firm with more than 1,800 lawyers in 18 offices around the world, including in Washington, DC. While often hired to handle complex transactions and “bet the company” litigation, Sidley also recognizes its profound responsibility to use its lawyers’ skills and experience to provide services to individuals and organizations that otherwise would be unable to afford legal representation. “Pro bono is something our firm’s management cares deeply about and takes personally,” say Jeffrey Green, partner and firm-wide chair of Sidley’s Pro Bono Committee, and Becky Troth, pro bono counsel for Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office. As one indication of the firm’s commitment to pro bono work, Sidley’s lawyers and staff devote more than 100,000 hours to pro bono projects annually. Sidley’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Interest Law was instrumental in implementing four significant firm-wide initiatives in the last ten years: (1) the Capital Litigation Project, handling death penalty appeals; (2) the Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project, representing clients in political asylum and other immigration matters; (3) the Veterans Benefits Project, representing veterans in benefits appeals; and (4) the Africa-Asia Agricultural Enterprise Program, serving the world’s poorest farmers and their communities. In addition to these firm-wide projects, Sidley has served pro bono clients in virtually every area of the law, from individual actions to recover disability benefits and child support to national cases affecting voting rights and marriage equality. Another important component of Sidley’s pro bono work is its fellowship program, which allows associates to work at nonprofit organizations before they join the firm. Over the last twelve years, more than 60 incoming Sidley associates have served as DC Bar Pro Bono Fellows at local legal services organizations. Since March 2012, Sidley also has sponsored a loaned associate program with the Legal Aid Society of DC, through which a Sidley associate spends four months working full-time with Legal Aid’s Barbara McDowell Appellate Advocacy Project. Over the last year, Sidley has received significant recognition for its pro bono program. Among many other distinctions, it was included among Law360’s Pro Bono Firms of 2014; received the 2014 Exceptional Service Award from the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project; and won the Pro Bono Counsel Award from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Finally, Sidley has provided extensive support directly to Washington Council of Lawyers and our projects. Betsy Howe, a Partner in Sidley’s DC office and chair of Sidley’s Pro Bono Committee in Washington, served as our treasurer in 2012–2013 and our president in 2013–2014. Becky Troth has been an important part of the DC Pro Bono Weekworking group for many years; together, with Mayer Brown’s Marcia Maack, Becky organized the Virtual Pro Bono Fair, a lasting resource for the pro bono community. We are also grateful for the firm’s generosity with use of their space and sponsorships of our events. It is due to the strong support of law firms like Sidley Austin that we have been able to grow, thrive, and better promote pro bono service and public interest law. We are grateful to Sidley Austin and pleased to honor the firm with our 2014 Law Firm Award. You can learn more about Sidley and our other award winners at our 2014 Awards Ceremony.

Photo: Government Pro Bono Award John Jowers

2014 Government Pro Bono Award: John Bowers (DOJ Civil Division)

Our 2014 Government Pro Bono Award goes to John J. (Joey) Bowers, a trial attorney at the Department of Justice Civil Division. Joey has become a role model for the public interest community in a surprisingly short time. Joey joined the Civil Division’s Environmental Tort Litigation section after he finished clerking in 2011. Since then, he has taken on three major pro bono cases. In 2011, Joey took on a case that many other lawyers thought was too challenging; he helped a mother from Massachusetts maintain her custody rights in a trial that involved nine witnesses. In 2012, while still working on the custody case, he represented a client wrongly accused of causing a car accident. And he took on another case that same year, which ended after Joey spent 11 hours negotiating a settlement on the Sunday before trial. Joey has done plenty of other pro bono and volunteer work as well. He has helped clients draft wills and powers of attorney through the DC Bar/Bread for the City will clinic. He has volunteered at the DC Bar Advice and Referral Clinic. He coaches the Woodrow Wilson High School mock trial team and has led them to compete at a citywide program at the DC Superior Court. He is Co-Director of the Federal Bar Association’s Moot Court Program. And he is Co-Chair of the Summer Law Clerk Program for the Federal Bar Association’s Younger Lawyers Division. Joey has helped a huge number of people in a very short time despite an extremely busy schedule. He is a true public servant, and we are pleased to honor him with our 2014 Government Pro Bono Award.

Photo: Jodi Feldman

2014 Legal Services Award: Jodi Feldman (Legal Aid DC)

Our inaugural Legal Services Award goes to Jodi Feldman, Supervising Attorney for Pro Bono and Training Programs at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Jodi is known throughout our legal community for her work ethic and commitment to pro bono service, but she also has been called the quintessential “unsung hero.” Most of her work involves building infrastructure behind the scenes – creating and improving programs that enable pro bono attorneys to provide high-quality legal help to thousands of people in need. After graduating from Georgetown Law, Jodi practiced at Wiley Rein before becoming a Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator of the Legal Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health. Jodi then joined Legal Aid in 2004, and jumpstarted its pro bono program. Legal Aid has increased the number of cases it places with volunteers every year for the past four years. Last year, attorneys contributed a staggering $16.5 million worth of attorney time for Legal Aid. Jodi’s work has increased not only the quantity of Legal Aid’s referrals, but also the quality of the resulting representation. She carefully matches pro bono lawyers with appropriate cases, makes sure that those lawyers get a Legal Aid mentor while working on their cases, and follows each case’s progress to its finish. She meets with various law firms throughout Washington, DC and coordinates firm-specific trainings. Jodi’s leadership also inspired unemployment-insurance referral relationships with both Arnold & Porter and McKenna Long & Aldridge and led to the establishment and maintenance of Skadden’s domestic violence Impact Project. On top of all of that, Jodi has given back to our legal community. She manages Legal Aid’s student intern program. She has been an active member of Washington Council of Lawyers and served on our board for several years. In fact, one board member notes that Jodi’s enthusiasm inspired her to become a member and participate in our events. Jodi is dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic – and she gets results. We couldn’t be more pleased to honor her with our Legal Services Award. You can learn more about Jodi and our other award winners at our 2014 Awards Ceremony.

Photo: Lydia Watts

Meet Lydia C. Watts – Our New Associate Director

Over the past few years, we've expanded our programs, events, and activities. In fact, we've been expanding so much that we needed more staff to keep all of the trains running. So we're pleased to announce that Lydia C. Watts will be joining us as our Associate Director. A summa cum laude graduate of American University's Washington College of Law, Lydia has an impressive and diverse array of experience and a deep commitment to public interest law. She is Deputy Director of the DC Access to Justice Commission, which works to address barriers to the justice systems facing low- and moderate-income people in Washington, DC. Since September 2005, Lydia has also been a Principal of Greater Good Consulting, which specializes in nonprofit organizational development. Lydia was previously Executive Director and Co-Founder of Women Empowered Against Violence, Director of Quality and Program Enhancement of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Executive Director of the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. She is the founding board chair of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, a holistic service provider for victims of crimes in Washington, DC. And she serves on the Board of Directors of Mentoring Today. As for her new position, Lydia is as excited as we are: "I am so honored to join the staff of the Washington Council of Lawyers. As a long-time public interest attorney in DC, I am very familiar with all of its amazing programs, events, and opportunities to keep our community informed and united. I am  eager to be a part of expanding those offerings and getting to know our members even better." A warm welcome to Lydia, and we hope you all get to meet her soon!

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