Jess Rosenbaum was board president during a pivotal point in our history. She shared the following remembrances from her tenure. During the time I was president, Washington Council of Lawyers was substantially growing its programming and advancing its infrastructure and strategic planning to support all the amazing programming board members were dreaming up. Over a few years, our board increased the number of events, graduated from "brown bag" events to more formal programs, and launched several popular new initiatives that became mainstays for Washington Council of Lawyers, including the mentoring program. A memo I wrote during my presidency proposed that we hire an additional staff person to support our then-part-time executive director (Susan Gilbert) and it notes that in 2006-2007, Washington Council of Lawyers was scheduled to host 17 programs (up from 8 events in 2001-02, and ten events in 2005-06). In addition to increasing the number of events, the diversification of the types of events and the targeted audiences was an important pivot. Traditionally the bulk of our programming had been brown bag lunches with speakers or panels. Starting in 2004’ish, Washington Council of Lawyers started the Litigation Skills Training, the Associates Pro Bono Forum, the Annual Pro Bono Drive, one-day trainings targeting the legal services community, bi-monthly mentoring program events, a 35th-anniversary wine and cheese series – whew! This sentence from the memo reminded me just how exponentially Washington Council of Lawyers’ programming was growing – "This year, we will only have two brown bag events; in addition to our annual flagship events (the Annual Awards, the Catch the Public Interest Spirit Reception, the mock trial, and Summer Forum) the schedule will include two one-day trainings, a reprise of the Litigation Skills training, bi-monthly mentoring program lunches, a second wine and cheese event, a combined Annual Awards/35th Anniversary Celebration, a Pro Bono Drive, and a new 'Staying Public' forum." What excited me about this growth was the opportunity to sponsor programs that would welcome the newest members of the public-interest community to our bar association (through the mentoring program), would attract segments of the public-interest and pro bono community that didn’t attend our events, facilitate the provision of pro bono services, and marshal the skills of Washington Council of Lawyers members for mentoring and training activities. We have had such an incredible breadth of experience and expertise in our Board members and general membership and these programs allowed us to serve real needs in the public interest community while deeply engaging our members. A personal priority for me was creating more of a home in Washington Council of Lawyers for legal services and long-term public interest lawyers. I think that during my presidency we started "Staying Public" programming (an outgrowth of "Going Public") to focus on the needs of and challenges faced by long-term public interest attorneys. I think we also added another panel to the Summer Forum focusing on poverty law/legal services/DC-focused work. We were also focused on increasing pro bono work and had a "Make Pro Bono Work Your New Year’s Resolution" drive that I think yielded the annual pro bono fair. The fair was not only about connecting legal services organizations with pro bono attorneys – it was structured to provide a forum for pro bono attorneys to get to know the broad range of organizations they could work with. My first love in terms of the new programming was launching the mentoring program. The program served so many purposes – welcoming to the DC community the amazingly talented new crop of public interest and pro bono-focused attorneys that arrive each year, involving those attorneys in Washington Council of Lawyers from the start of their careers, providing valuable programming that mentees were not receiving in a coordinated way through their organizations, and capitalizing on our deep capacity to provide mentoring and instruction through our incredible board members and general membership. Speaking at the first mentoring program lunch each year is one of my favorite activities. In order to support this growth of programming as well as the commitment to providing targeted programs for different constituent groups, it was critical that Washington Council of Lawyers grow our infrastructure and formalize long-term thinking. During my term, Washington Council of Laweyers voted to expand its staff and start examining its infrastructure needs. In 2007 we also formulated a three-year strategic plan that articulated ambitious programming and infrastructure goals. (It would be fun to see how much of it has been accomplished!) Also during my term, Washington Council of Lawyers celebrated its 35th anniversary. In addition to hosting a 35th-anniversary celebration, we hosted a series of wine and cheese events that brought together many members of our community over a range of interesting issues. One of my favorite things about planning that event was that we reached out to all of the past presidents and brought back into the fold a number of former leaders who had lost touch. I think we put together a retrospective of the first 35 years. It was an incredible experience for me to individually call many Washington Council of Lawyers past presidents who were not active at that time in order to invite them to the celebration and to hear their reminiscences about their time with Washington Council of Lawyers. We are grateful to Jess for her leadership then and her continuing insight, inspiration, and guidance now. We will be honoring one of her…
By Shea Hazel On Wednesday, April 20, 2021, Washington Council of Lawyers hosted an inspiring session to encourage and empower client-centered representation. Redefining Success: Empowering Client-Centered Representation was moderated by Jen Masi, Pro Bono Director, Children’s Law Center, and included panelists Katherine Conway, Staff Attorney, CAIR Coalition; Tracy Davis, Managing Attorney, Bread for the City; and, Faiza Majeed, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Panelists offered suggestions on client-centered approaches to counseling and legal strategies; prioritizing client agency and empowering clients through the resolution of their cases. Meet Clients Where They Are "Meeting clients where they are" requires holistic, client counseling and representative approaches, obliging lawyers to disregard any biases and actively listen. Be present and actively listen to clients’ stories to understand the injustices they experience and their unique goals and priorities. Balance legal expertise with client expertise of their lived experiences. Thank clients for calling when their cases are sources of trauma and stress, understanding they may be traumatized or retraumatized throughout the legal process. Understand some clients may be detained and have been stripped of their liberties. Respect clients’ dignity in making their own decisions and allow them the time they need to reflect and commit to legal strategies. Client-Centered Lawyering and Representation Applying principles of cultural humility can keep lawyers centered on clients' needs and increase client advocacy and zealous representation. Support client’s agency over their cases. Honestly and realistically educate clients about possible options and outcomes (including potential consequences), to empower informed decision making. Enlist subject matter reinforcements, when needed. Prioritize client goals, first; legal strategies, second. Encourage clients to take on tasks, which may help them proceed on their own at a later date if necessary. Educate against biases and assumptions. Speak up about systemic disparities and racism. Build power within communities by conducting know-your-rights trainings and by representating organizations such as tenant associations. Connect clients to mental health or case management services where appropriate - coordinating with their providers and advocating for the clients to the provider, while acknowledging your role in representing a client's stated interest. Revisit and redefine success throughout the attorney-client relationship. Continually reflect upon your own lawyering skills so you can continue to better deliver client-centered approaches. Successful Case Closure Clients need to be empowered, to keep moving their lives forward, after their cases have closed, regardless of the outcome. Celebrate micro-moments of success throughout the case. Reassure clients for showing up and making their -often silenced- voices heard. Help clients understand their problems so they are equipped to respond in the future. Ensure clients understand any court orders and help them prepare for and mitigate against potential challenges. Put ego aside and not expect to have the closure you might want. Preserve client relationships and understand they may call upon your services in the future. As a reminder, hearing and validating the injustice a client may have experienced while being zealous and honest about achieving real justice for them under the law, is challenging and rewarding work. If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of your clients. It is important to understand your work-life balance and prioritize your mental, spiritual, and physical health. Your ability and availability to advocate for your clients is a personal decision and there is a community of pro bono and civic-minded attorneys to collaborate with through Washington Council of Lawyers and across the District. Check out more ways to connect at Washington Council of Lawyers’ upcoming events. And continue the conversation on social media using #50YearsStrong. Shea Hazel is a law student at UMass Law and a member of Washington Council of Lawyers Advocacy Committee
50 years ago -- Washington Council of Lawyers was founded to reform the DC Bar and fight for social justice. Today -- Washington Council of Lawyers is a vibrant voice for the DC pro bono and public interest community, fighting for access to justice, with more than 70 programs during the past year. 50 years from 1971 to 2021 -- Washington Council of Lawyers has worked to ensure our legal systems treat everyone fairly regardless of money, position, or power; fought for access to justice for everyone; trained and mentored thousands of public-interest and pro bono lawyers; and helped build a community of fierce social justice warriors. So many individuals have been a part of our work. We're excited to invite all of you to join us for our virtual 50th Anniversary Reunion on Remo on Thursday, July 22, 2021, at 5:00 pm ET. We'll begin the evening with an opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. Then we'll hear from past presidents from across the decades, describing: How Washington Council of Lawyers solidified its reputation as a strong leader in the public-interest community. Why Washington Council of Lawyers continues to bind our community together. What the key milestones, memories, and moments were that make Washington Council of Lawyers great. Our past president panelists across the decades will include: 1970s -- Marc Efron, Retired Partner at Crowell & Moring and president from 1972-1973 1980s -- Lawrence Schneider, Active Retired Partner at Arnold & Porter and president from 1984-1985 1990s -- Katia Garrett, COO of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs and president from 1995-1996 2000s -- Jessica Rosenbaum, Senior Advisor for the DC Access to Justice Commission and president from 2006-2007 2010s -- Moderator -- Paul Lee, Pro Bono Counsel at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and president from 2014-2016. Our 50th Anniversary Reunion is free to attend, but we are encouraging donations to help us stay strong for the next 50 years! We hope you will join us to reminisce and celebrate! Save your spot today. Join our ongoing 50th Anniversary celebration on social media using #50YearsStrong!
Post-graduate fellowships are a unique way to realize your ideal public interest job. Fellowships allow new lawyers to gain hands-on experience, develop project management skills, and pursue their passions for promoting justice. But the application process is complicated and the programs are competitive. We're here to help you make sense of the process. Our expert panel will walk you through all the steps of the application procedures for the various programs and give you concrete tips for maximizing your chances of landing the fellowship of your dreams. Then, we'll discuss PSJD and other online resources for finding fellowships. Finally, there will be plenty of time for individualized questions. Fellowships 101 is free for Washington Council of Lawyers members (join) and law students of Public Interest Jobs Clearinghouse (PIJC) subscriber law schools; the cost is just $5 for non-members. Not sure if you attend a law school that subscribes to the PIJC? Contact your law school career development office to find out. Join the conversation on social media #Fellowships101.
Join us (virtually!) on Wednesday, July 7, from 3-4:30 pm ET for an insightful evaluation of the recently-concluded Supreme Court term with those who know it best - the press who cover the Court. Our panel of journalists will highlight significant cases, discuss the implications of those decisions, and make a few educated guesses about what lies ahead for the Court. Get a look behind the curtain about how the Court is changing with its newest appointments. Part news, part law, and part conjecture, this panel is sure to be intriguing! Our invited panelists include: Joan Biskupic (CNN) Ariane de Vogue (CNN) Amy Howe (SCOTUSblog) Adam Liptak (New York Times) Robert Barnes (Washington Post) David Savage (Los Angeles Times) The panel will be moderated by Art Spitzer, Senior Counsel, ACLU-DC. The cost of this program is $10 for Washington Council of Lawyers members and members of co-sponsoring organizations, $15 for public-interest and government lawyers, and $20 for the general public & law firm attendees. (Join here to receive the discounted member price.) Don't miss this discussion of the Supreme Court term! Finally, if you'd like your summer associates or interns to attend, but don't yet know their names, you can register them as guests (First name: Guest 1, Last Name: Organization Name); email Christina Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance. Join and follow the conversation on Twitter using #SCOTUSpress!
Looking for something new to do or to meet someone new in the public-interest community? Grab a friend and join Washington Council of Lawyers for an international wine tasting with local wine shop, Grand Cata. Travel Latin America’s vineyards without leaving home and experience the cultural diversity that these fine wines embody. The wine tasting will take place via Zoom on Wednesday, May 19, from 5:00-6:00 pm ET. Register by Friday, May 7 so that you can arrange for pickup or delivery of 4 half bottles of wine from Grand Cata. The class is free, and the cost of the wines is $45. Food pairings may be available for an extra charge. Upon registration, you will be directed to a link to complete payment and confirm wine delivery or pick-up with Grand Cata. We will learn, sip, and connect with other public-interest-minded lawyers and law students. This is the perfect way to get over hump day! Invite a friend or colleague to join you for an introduction to great wines and our vibrant public-interest community! Join the conversation on social media using #LawyerswithaFinePalate.
Our Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum is an annual tradition that brings together lawyers, summer associates, summer interns, and others interested in using their law degrees to help those in need. It's also a great way to highlight the importance of pro bono and public-interest work throughout one's legal career. We'll kick off the virtual event with a keynote discussion with Eric Holder, former United States Attorney General, on Thursday, June 3 from 12:00 - 1:00 pm ET. Mr. Holder will engage in a wide-ranging conversation about championing change and advocating for justice, his impressive and varied career, and the importance of pro bono in promoting the rule of law and equal access to justice. A practice-area panel discussion will follow the keynote from 1:15 - 2:15 pm ET. There will be networking time before and after the panel. Then, over the following two weeks, you will have the opportunity to attend the remainder of five different virtual panel presentations where you can learn more about pro bono and public-interest work in DC and all across the country. Each panel will focus on a different practice area, featuring presentations by national and local experts in that legal specialty. The panel topics will include: June 3 - Non-Litigation Pro Bono June 10 - Poverty Law June 10 - Human Rights & Immigration June 17 - Civil Rights & Civil Liberties June 17 - Criminal Law & Death Penalty The Summer Forum sessions are from 12:00-2:30 pm ET. Each session will feature two practice area panels with networking opportunities after each session. The Summer Forum is open to Washington Council of Lawyers members (join), participants in summer associate and summer intern programs, lawyers in law firms, government and public-interest organizations, law students, and others interested in learning more about incorporating public-interest law into their practice. You can attend from anywhere! A single registration provides access to all three days of Summer Forum sessions, and recordings of each session will be sent to all registered attendees. Early bird pricing is has been extended to May 7. Summer Program Coordinators: If you'd like your summer associates or interns to attend, but don't yet know their names, you can register them as guests (First name: Guest 1, Last Name: Organization Name). Please email Christina Jackson (at email@example.com) if you need any assistance. Look for updates and join the conversation about the Summer Forum using #SumFo21 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn!
Traditional trial advocacy requires preparation, a mastery of the law and facts of a case, and the ability to persuasively communicate. Effective virtual trial advocacy requires these skills AND a mastery of technology and procedures that may be unfamiliar to even the most seasoned litigator. It's no wonder the continued use of remote hearings may be intimidating to many lawyers. How can you effectively build your case when you are not in the same room with your fact-finder and witnesses? With a mixture of lecture and demonstration, expert litigator Phil Andonian will reveal best practices and etiquette for remote hearings and discuss tips for effectively operating remotely. Phil Andonian is an experienced trial lawyer and Co-Founder of Caleb Andonian PLLC. He has nearly 20 years of litigation experience in criminal defense, labor and employment law, and personal injury law. Phil has tried more than two dozen cases to verdict and has helped many clients through the complexities of civil discovery and motions practice. He also regularly represents clients in administrative hearings and arbitrations. This training is appropriate for public-interest, law firm, in-house, and government lawyers of all experience levels who have or will have to appear virtually. Scholarships are available thanks to the generosity of the D.C. Bar Foundation. Email Nancy Lopez to apply. Thank you to Planet Depos for sponsoring this training! Planet Depos is a worldwide court reporting and litigation technology firm with over a decade of experience handling remote proceedings. While remote depositions may be new to many attorneys, they aren’t to Planet Depos. They made remote the new in-person for the last 10 years. Whether your proceeding has participants down the street, or across the country. Planet Depos can make it happen. Their expertise in mobile video conferencing means you can expect a more efficient and streamlined litigation process. To learn more about remote depositions and scheduling contact Alison Barberi at 301-613-4665 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be a winner! As a way to bring an additional moment of joy to this training, Planet Depos invites all attendees to enter into a raffle for a drawing of a Yeti cooler. Register for the raffle here.
By Heather Krick On Wednesday, December 9, 2020, we hosted Spotlight on Evictions, a virtual conversation with Emily Benfer, Chair of the ABA's Covid-19 Taskforce on Evictions. First, the program opened with remarks from current ABA President Patricia Lee Refo. Tricia acknowledged that the United States is facing an unprecedented need for pro bono lawyering and reminded us that lawyers can help limit the number of evictions. She discussed the ABA's advocacy in Congress for a renewed moratorium on evictions. The draft stimulus bill, which Congress is set to pass shortly, includes an extension of the national eviction moratorium through January 2021. She also thanked the many lawyers who have taken on pro bono cases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, Taryn Wilgus Null, government attorney and member of the Washington Council of Lawyers Board of Directors, moderated a discussion with Emily about the eviction crisis, which already existed pre-pandemic and has only been exacerbated during the pandemic. The facts and context Emily provided are sobering. Before the novel coronavirus pandemic began, about 50% of the renter population (or 20.8 million families) were paying 30% of their income to rent. Seven evictions were filed every minute when the unemployment rate was at 4.7%. Racially discriminatory housing practices resulted in a lack of wealth accumulation among people of color who have approximately 1/12 of the wealth accumulation of their white counterparts. Emily highlighted the purpose and effect of eviction moratoriums. Currently, Washington, DC has a moratorium on evictions, but 31 states do not have strong protections in place. Earlier in the pandemic, in May, 43 states had protections in place against evictions. This is important because eviction filings spike within weeks after moratoriums end and protections cease. In some cities, filings rose 385%. The mere filing of an eviction case can lead to decreased housing stability. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the filing can lower credit scores, hinder loan eligibility, or create barriers to future employment. Connections Between Evictions and Health Inequity Emily then explained that the single greatest predictor of eviction is the presence of a child in the home. As a result, families are often the ones evicted from their homes. This can have negative consequences on health well into the future. She noted evictions are associated with health conditions in children such as emotional trauma, risk of chronic disease in adulthood, decreased life expectancy, setbacks in education, and food insecurity. Some conditions shown in women who are evicted include drug-use and related harms, pre-term pregnancy, and physical or sexual assault. She went on to demonstrate how evictions are also correlated with an increase in physical and mental health conditions, including higher mortality rates, higher blood pressure, respiratory conditions, sexually transmitted infections, depression, anxiety, mental health hospitalizations, and suicides. Additionally, evictions cause families to seek alternatives which include staying with relatives or friends. Emily elucidated how an increase in home size by just two people can double the exposure risk of respiratory infections like the novel coronavirus. An overcrowded residential environment also makes it difficult to adhere to CDC recommended COVID-19 protocols, such as increased hand washing, self-quarantining, wearing clean masks, sheltering in place, and social distancing. With a link between moratorium lifts and an increase in mortality rates, evictions frustrate efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Effects are stronger in states with weaker moratoriums. Some experts estimate that between May and September of 2020, evictions led to an additional 430,000 preventable cases of COVID-19 and 10,700 preventable deaths. Emily further explained that people of color are much more likely to be affected by evictions and their accompanying health impacts. During this past summer, African American renters had low or slight confidence in their ability to pay the next month's rent compared to white renters who consistently had high confidence in their ability to make rent payments. Black and Hispanic adults are dying at the same rates as white people who are a decade or older than them. What can we do? Emily had several suggestions for how lawyers can get involved. We need to freeze the initiation stage of evictions and ensure that the freeze applies to all renters. We can increase access to counsel for tenants in eviction cases. Without counsel, winnable cases more frequently default in the landlord's favor. We can create diversion programs that include a right to counsel. While there are rent relief programs available, the demand is so high that the funds get depleted within one day and sometimes in hours. Programs with funds still available are setting the bar too high for those in need to access the funds. Two actions that lawyers can take are to 1) take a pro bono eviction case, and 2) advocate for better fair housing policies. Emily highlighted one tax attorney in Texas who was so moved by the situation that they started taking pro bono cases and prevented four thousand evictions alone. After the pandemic is over, the work will have just begun. Legal representation in housing court can make a huge difference. In 2019, approximately 84% of tenants represented by counsel remained in their homes, and default judgments dropped by 34%. Pro bono lawyers will be more important than ever in helping families maintain secure housing. Hope for the Future Hope in this dark moment comes from remembering that many lawyers have already taken on pro bono cases and are continuing…
The past four years saw a sharp increase in pro bono energy. Volunteers responded passionately to Trump Administration policies that were seen as negatively impacting marginalized communities. As we approach the first days of the Biden Administration, pro bono coordinators are asking, what now? How will pro bono programs rebound from this ongoing period of issue whiplash and volunteer exhaustion? How can pro bono counsel redirect attention to the many local legal dilemmas affecting our neighbors? How will the legal community step up to meet the local legal needs that have been exacerbated during the pandemic? Will pro bono attorneys still feel motivated to rise to the occasion during this new, seemingly friendlier administration? Panelists: Daniel Cantor, Arnold & Porter, Partner & Pro Bono Committee Chair Laurie Ball Cooper, Ayuda, Legal Director Rebecca Troth, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, Executive Director Nancy Drane, D.C. Access to Justice Commission, Executive Director Moderator: Paul Lee, Pro Bono Counsel, Steptoe & Johnson LLP Panelists will weigh in on what pro bono will look like in 2021 – a year of great uncertainty for low-income residents of DC. Dan Cantor will present on Arnold & Porter's impressive pandemic unemployment assistance project, launched in partnership with The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia. Laurie Ball Cooper of Ayuda will give insight into immigration concerns that will continue under the new administration. Becky Troth will discuss how local civil legal needs will skyrocket, while pro bono recruitment lags behind. And Nancy Drane will unveil the new DC Represents campaign, a citywide effort to recruit pro bono attorneys for pandemic-related relief projects. Best Practices in Pro Bono brings together pro bono directors at law firms, legal services organizations, corporations, and government agencies to share tips for improving their pro bono programs. There is no cost to attend. Sign up today!