By Nancy Lopez & Larry Schneider
Susie Hoffman is the quintessential recipient of the Presidents Award, which makes it especially appropriate that this honor is awarded to her during our 50th anniversary year. She is wicked smart, phenomenally kind, passionate, dedicated, and always willing to lend a hand. She is a trailblazer, mentor, and leader in the public-interest community. She soars among legal luminaries. But she is also down-to-earth, practical, and willing to roll up her sleeves, represent individual clients, and do the work of building a strong public-interest community in DC. For all of these reasons, we are pleased to recognize Susie as our 2021 Presidents Award recipient.
Susie has dedicated her career to pro bono work. Indeed, all of her work, every day for more than 30 years, has been filled with pro bono and public-interest activities. Susie became the nation’s first pro bono counsel in 1988 when she joined Crowell & Moring. She blazed the trail for law firm pro bono counsel and is highly respected among her peers. She is a trusted advisor to newer pro bono counsel in DC and around the country.
Susie also walks the walk. In addition to promoting and supervising the pro bono program and pro bono work at Crowell, Susie handles an active caseload of pro bono representations. She has represented many clients in child abuse and neglect cases and in domestic violence, adoption, and child custody litigation. She has served as a faculty member for the D.C. Bar’s Child Custody and Domestic Violence training courses and volunteered with local organizations.
A natural leader, Susie has held numerous leadership positions with the D.C. Bar, legal services organizations, and other community nonprofits. During the challenging period of 2019-2020 (the beginning of the pandemic), Susie served as D.C. Bar President and was President of the Board for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. Previously, she was elected to two terms of service on the D.C. Bar’s Board of Governors. Susie was President of the D.C. Bar Foundation (2015-2017) and a member of their Board of Directors from 2011-17. She is the Founding Board Chair of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Advocacy Project (DV LEAP) and served in that position from 2005-2011, and then continued her service as a Board member from 2012-2019. Additionally, Susie served for 4 years, from 2009-2013, as Co-Chair of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services of the DC Circuit Judicial Conference.
During her term as D.C. Bar President, Susie won the ABA best President’s Column for the whole country for her column entitled, “Losers” that profiled the importance of public defenders and other attorneys who represent individuals with losing cases but who do so to preserve the integrity of our justice system. Under Susie’s leadership, the pro bono task force initiatives the family law attorney of the day program and logged other accomplishments. The President’s Reception for Susie’s year raised the highest level of donations for any year in Pro Bono Center history. Susie participated in and championed participation in the Saturday Advice and Referral Clinics, attending whenever she was in town. And Susie oversaw the development of the new strategic plan for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center for the next five years that was adopted last year.
Currently, Susie serves as Chair of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, as a Commissioner on the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, and as Vice President of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Board.
Susie joined our Board of Directors in 1989 and continues to serve today. She co-chairs our D.C. Bar Affairs Committee, which endorses candidates for D.C. Bar leadership positions during the elections each year and is a member of our Personnel Committee. Susie is the only Board President who has served two non-consecutive terms: she was President in 1993-1994, and again in 1997-1998. Susie is the longtime co-organizer and moderator of the Transactional Pro Bono panel for our Summer Forum, has served as a panelist for our Best Practices in Pro Bono Series, and is often a mentor in our Mentoring Program.
The list of ways Susie has served is long. But, for those who have been fortunate to know Susie, it is not her accomplishments that make her stand out. It is her selflessness, her humility, and her passion. Susie does this work to advance access to justice – not to advance her own career or position. She devotes many hours to promoting pro bono and supporting the public-interest community because she believes, as we do, that our justice system should treat everyone fairly, regardless of money, position, and power. Susie has been an advocate, a mentor, a collaborator, and a leader for individuals and organizations who, like Susie, are champions of justice.
Join us on Thursday, December 2, at 5:00 pm for a lively and interactive Awards Ceremony where we will present this year’s awards and celebrate being #50YearsStrong! Register here.
Nancy Lopez is the former Executive Director of Washington Council of Lawyers. Larry Schneider is a current Washington Council of Lawyers board member and former President.