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Photo: Deborah Birnbaum

2017 Government Pro Bono Award: Deborah Birnbaum

By Anne King

Deborah Birnbaum, winner of our 2017 Government Pro Bono Award, does it all. She practices at the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of Labor and serves as her office’s Pro Bono Program Coordinator. In the latter role, Deborah has developed a robust pro bono culture; her colleagues at the Solicitor’s Office are doing more pro bono than ever. Deborah is also a dedicated pro bono advocate in her own right, engaging in a variety of types of pro bono work for many different legal-services organizations.

In her office, Deborah secured policy changes, such as increased administrative leave, to make it easier for her colleagues to do pro bono work. She regularly organizes pro bono events and asks colleagues which pro bono opportunities they would find interesting. And because of Deborah’s outreach, the Department of Labor became involved in creating and hosting government-wide pro bono trainings. Indeed, her efforts have increased pro bono work in Solicitor’s Office branches across the country.

At the same time, Deborah maintains her own robust pro bono practice. She regularly volunteers (in her personal capacity) at clinics sponsored by the D.C. Employment Justice Center, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center; through this work, she helps low-income clinic visitors with a wide range of legal issues. Among other examples, Deborah spent almost a year fighting for a tenant facing eviction, and ultimately resolved the dispute favorably despite a recalcitrant landlord.

Deborah, in sum, helps her colleagues better serve the public while offering an example for others to emulate. Because she both does pro bono work and gets others to do the same, Deborah is an ideal recipient of our 2017 Government Pro Bono Award.

Learn more about Deborah and the other award recipients at our 2017 Awards Ceremony.

Anne King (@annewarrenking) is a government lawyer and a member of our Board of Directors.