Join us as we bring the community back together at our Fall Kickoff. The Fall Kickoff is a chance to meet members of our vibrant pro bono and public-interest community; get more involved in our programs, activities, and committees; meet our new board members and officers; and sign up for our upcoming programs and events. And, it's fun! We'll have free food and drinks, along with great conversations. We hope you are just as excited as we are about getting off the Zoom screen and returning to in-person events! But, if you are not ready for an in-person event, or just can't face the commute, stay tuned! More information about how to participate virtually in our Fall Kickoff is forthcoming. We're figuring out the hybrid options for those who want or need to participate virtually! Whether in person or virtually, we hope you will attend the Fall Kickoff to get up to speed on all of the ways you can gain pro bono and public-interest advocacy skills and build strong professional connections by being a part of our vibrant community. The event is free, thanks to the generosity of our host, Goodwin Procter. Please join us, and feel free to bring a friend! Join the excitement on social media using #FallKickoff21.
Join the DC Bar Public Interest and Courts Community on Tuesday, August 3, at 12:00 pm ET for an insightful conversation between civil rights lawyer Tahir Duckett and Georgetown Law Professor Christy Lopez on Defund the Police. The program features Christy Lopez, professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and Tahir Duckette, a civil rights lawyer at Relman Colfax PLLC -- experts on the current state of policing and some of the police reforms being considered by policymakers in the District. Professor Lopez and Mr. Duckett will seek to explain what advocates, including the Black Lives Matter movement, actually mean when they call for "defunding" the police. From there, they will discuss some of the major reforms being called for in the District, the practical steps to implementing those reforms, and how changes to our traditional concepts of policing might impact public safety and crisis outcomes in our communities. This program organized by the D.C. Bar Public Interest and Courts Community is open to everyone. As a co-sponsoring organization, registration is free for Washington Council of Lawyers members (join). To register, simply email email@example.com by Friday, July 30 with your name, address, that you are a member of a co-sponsoring organization (Washington Council of Lawyers), and the date, time, name of the event. If you are not a member of the D.C. Bar and don't already have a D.C. Bar nonmember account you will need to create one prior to emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. This remote program will be hosted on the Zoom platform. You will receive access information from D.C. Bar Communities staff the afternoon prior to the program. Washington Council of Lawyers is pleased to co-sponsor this opportunity to learn more about the changes our local Defund the Police and Black Lives Matter movements are seeking and how policymakers are responding.
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
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 email@example.com. 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…