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Graphic: Best Practices In Pro Bono Responsible Storytelling

Best Practices in Pro Bono: Responsible Storytelling

Our pro bono clients entrust us to share their stories – whether to win their case before a judge, to recruit a volunteer to handle their case, or to promote our pro bono programs.  How can we share these compelling, often extremely personal narratives in a responsible manner that respects our clients’ dignity and authenticity, without losing its impact?  When recounting the experiences of clients living in under-served communities of color, how can we best convey important economic and racial justice implications without using stereotypes and overgeneralization as a shortcut?  Our panel of experts will share their best practices for responsible storytelling. Our panelists include: Allyson Boucher, Communications Director, Children’s Law Center  Ciarra Crowe, Senior Communications Coordinator, Children's Law Center Patrick Orciani, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Legal Aid Society of DC Ben Weinberg, Pro Bono Partner, Dentons Paul Lee, Pro Bono Counsel at Steptoe & Johnson LLP will moderate our discussion. Our conversation will take place from 12:00-1:15 pm ET. Following the panel, you are invited to join a small group breakout room for 15 minutes with one of our panelists for further discussion and networking. Join us to learn, and stay after the panel to continue the conversation! Best Practices is free to attend, but registration is required, and donations are encouraged to support our programs! RSVP today and invite a friend or colleague to join you!

Graphic: 2022 Summer Forum Keynote Kristen Clarke

2022 Summer Forum Keynote with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke

Washington Council of Lawyers' Annual Summer Forum began on June 8 with an engaging and eye-opening discussion by keynote speaker Kristen Clarke. Kristen Clarke is the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice and served as a lifelong civil rights lawyer and advocate in the public service. AAG Clarke was joined in conversation by Nicole Austin-Hillery, President & CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. and Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member. This first session touched on topics of opportunities such as the Attorney’s General Honors Program in the Justice Department, the ability civil rights lawyers have to tackle important issues, the duty to give back to the community, and promoting the importance of pro bono work. Read on to find out more.
Graphic: Law Reform Advocacy To Prohibit Overly Broad Secrecy Orders In Litigated Cases

Law Reform Advocacy To Prohibit Overly Broad Secrecy Orders In Litigated Cases

By Don Resnikoff Public Justice and other Washington, D.C. area public interest organizations are advocating for law reform to prohibit overly broad secrecy orders in litigated cases. One goal is legislation that will limit court entry of orders that permit parties to withhold and keep secret important consumer information without substantial justification.  Several states have enacted “right to know” anti-secrecy laws that address the problem, including Florida, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, and Washington State. A California anti-secrecy law is being considered by legislators and may be adopted in the near future. Neither the District of Columbia, Maryland, nor Virginia have such laws.  The DC Consumer Rights Coalition, D.C. Bar Consumer and D.C. Affairs Communities/Sections, and others, plan to present a program this Summer in which attorneys representing Public Justice will advocate for local “right to know” law reform. One model for such local advocacy is the California “Public Right to Know Act” which was recently passed by the California State Senate.  As explained by Public Justice at, California Senate Bill 1149 would protect the public’s right to know the facts about dangerous public hazards that are discovered during litigation. The Public Justice posting explains that the California “Public Right to Know Act”— would do the following: Create a presumption that no court order may conceal information about a defective product or environmental hazard that poses a danger to public health or safety unless the court finds that the public interest in disclosure is clearly outweighed by a specific and substantial need for secrecy. Prohibit settlement agreements that restrict the disclosure of information about a defective product or environmental hazard that poses a danger to public health or safety, and make any provision in an agreement void as against public policy, and thus unenforceable. Narrowly tailor its application to only information about a “danger to public health or safety” that is likely to cause “significant or substantial bodily injury or illness, or death.” Sponsoring California Senator Connie M. Leyva explained that “Information about defects and hazards created by companies should never be hidden behind a veil of courthouse secrecy that can endanger the lives and safety of Californians . . . .The public must have access to this vital information so that they can decide—for themselves—how they can protect themselves and their families from these defective products or toxic hazards.  It is unconscionable that any company would ever seek to keep critical information that can lead to injuries or even deaths from the public—and all because of their desire to keep making profits.  I thank my Senate colleagues that voted for SB 1149 today, as they are standing on the side of the public by helping to prevent future injuries or deaths.” The Public Justice posting explains that for decades, overly broad court protective orders have enabled companies to shield evidence of threats to public safety and other corporate wrongdoing. Consumers Union has for many years supported “right to know” legislation in California. Elisa Odabashian, Senior Policy Analyst with Consumers Union’s West Coast Office, made the following statement in 2000  in support of legislative proposals resembling the current SB 1149 that would limit secret out-of-court settlements in product defect, environmental hazard, unfair insurance claims practice or financial fraud lawsuits. “Many lives could be saved and much suffering could be averted if corporations were not allowed to use secrecy orders in court settlements to hide information about product defects, environmental hazards, or financial fraud.” “The Firestone/Ford tire tragedies highlight how secrecy orders can have very serious consequences on public safety. Over the last decade–long before the recent recall of millions of Firestone tires sold largely on the popular Ford Explorer–there were 50-100 Firestone tire lawsuits. Most of these court cases were settled with secrecy orders in place that effectively kept information about the potential dangers associated with the tires from the public. According to the Detroit Free Press, to date, there have been 119 deaths and 500 serious injuries associated with Firestone tire tread separations. Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if secret settlements had been barred.” Further information will be forthcoming about the upcoming DC Consumer Rights Coalition, DC Bar Consumer and D.C. Affairs Communities/Sections program in which attorneys representing Public Justice will advocate for local “right to know” law reform. Don Resnikoff is a member of Washington Council of Lawyers' Advocacy Committee.

Graphic: NACDL Return To Freedom Project

Pro Bono Opportunities in Clemency & Compassionate Release

NACDL’s Return to Freedom Project (R2F) helps those languishing in prison by partnering with different organizations to recruit, train, and support pro bono volunteers on clemency, compassionate release, and expungement. Find out how to volunteer!
Graphic: SF Immigration Panel

2022 Summer Forum Preview: Immigration & Human Rights Panel

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Lawyers who practice Immigration & Human Rights law help clients navigate safety, security, and entry into a new land. Their work can be life-saving and is almost always life-altering. Join our panel on Immigration & Human Rights practice on Thursday, June 23, from 1:15-2:30 pm ET. Register here to get the link for this insightful discussion of the litigation, policy, and advocacy work in these important fields.
Graphic: SF Civil Rights Panel

2022 Summer Forum Preview: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Panel

At our 2021 Summer Forum, the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel will explore the critical role lawyers play in protecting individuals’ fundamental rights. The law prohibits discrimination in housing, lending, education, and employment, but too often, those rights are not protected without the expert guidance of a pro bono or public-interest lawyer. Civil Rights issues such as racial justice, voters’ rights, fair employment and housing, reproductive rights, and racial disparities in education are frequently in the news. Lawyers can use their skills to move toward justice and fairness. How? Our Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel will discuss exciting pro bono opportunities and public-interest career options on Thursday, June 23, from 12:00-1:15 pm ET.
Graphic: SF Criminal Law & Death Penalty Panel

2022 Summer Forum Preview: Criminal Law & Death Penalty Panel

Our Constitution protects our most fundamental rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Criminal and death penalty lawyers fight every day to ensure that those fundamental principles are protected in our courts. Their cases can be gut-wrenching and involve some of the most impactful issues that lawyers handle. Whether a criminal or death penalty case is a part of your full-time public-interest gig or a pro bono interest, there is no doubt that your work matters. Learn more about this important area of law at our 2022 Summer Forum panel on Criminal Law & Death Penalty practice on Thursday, June 16, at 1:15 pm ET.  Register here to join the virtual conversation. 
Photo: Poverty Law Panel Headshots

2022 Summer Forum Preview: Poverty Law Panel

The legal hurdles faced by individuals living in poverty are vast. They often face uphill battles with issues impacting the most fundamental human needs: family stability, safe housing, food security, fair employment, and freedom from fear and violence. Representation is vital in these areas, and the need is overwhelming. These areas of law often have the highest rate of pro se litigants; when pro bono or public-interest lawyers get involved, these cases also produce some of the most life-changing outcomes for the parties involved. Pro bono lawyers who take on these cases literally can be life-savers.
Graphic: SF Non-Litigation Panel

2022 Summer Forum Preview: Non-Litigation Pro Bono Panel

Most lawyers on TV spend nearly all of their time in courtrooms. In real life, however, lawyers do a host of transactional advocacy, and other non-litigation work. They engage in legislative advocacy, contract drafting, and lease negotiations. They also provide strategic advice on non-profit governance, copyright law, trademark infringement issues, and tax law. There are numerous pro bono opportunities that do not involve litigation, and our first 2022 Summer Forum panel will highlight some of that important and impactful work.
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