Washington Council of Lawyers delighted to announce Nichelle Johnson Billips as the recipient of our 2021 Government Pro Bono Award. Nichelle is an attorney-advisor in the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and a leader among her colleagues and the government in service to the community.
Arnold & Porter’s website says that “Arnold & Porter believes that pro bono is, and must be, a core value and a defining characteristic of a great law firm.” Those are not just words on a screen, but a vision that the leaders and lawyers at Arnold & Porter live out every day. Pro bono is a fundamental part of the firm’s culture, values, and history. From the work of Abe Fortas on Gideon v. Wainwright, to the Buffalo Creek Disaster, to handling death penalty cases, voting rights cases, and assisting people with unemployment claims during COVID-19, the firm’s broad scope and deep commitment to pro bono are breathtaking.
Leah Myers is the 2021 recipient of the Washington Council of Lawyers Legal Services Award. Through her work at the Landlord and Tenant Branch of the D.C. Superior Court, at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, and her current work at Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Leah has aimed to improve access to our legal system for low-income D.C. residents, and has been incredibly successful in this pursuit over the past seventeen years.
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.
Today we welcome Christina Jackson as our new Executive Director. Christina has spent her career helping lawyers and law students do public-interest work, and we’re thrilled to appoint her to this new role. “I am honored to be selected by…
That’s a wrap on DC Pro Bono Week 2021! But the increased legal need for pro bono lawyers continues beyond Pro Bono Week. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic recovery, the unprecedented legal needs crisis will only increase. Now is the time to volunteer your time to help a neighbor in need. As lawyers, we have a duty and obligation to help bridge the access to justice gap. Whether it’s by taking on a pro bono case, volunteering for an advice and referral clinic, contributing to systemic advocacy, or financially supporting a legal services organization, we can all do something for the public good.
On Wednesday, October 27 as part of National Pro Bono Week we hosted a discussion about the need for pro bono attorneys to represent tenants on the landlord and tenant docket. Our panelists shared the contours of the issue and provided statistics, facts, and background to enable the audience to fully understand what we mean when we discuss the coming eviction crisis. Our panelists included Judge Todd E. Edelman, Deputy Presiding Judge, Civil Division, Superior Court for the District of Columbia; Gabriella Lewis-White, Associate Director, Housing, DC Bar Pro Bono Center; Beth Mellen, Supervising Attorney, Housing Law Unit, Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia; and John O’Connor, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson, Pro Bono Volunteer. Below is what they shared.
Let’s admit it – for some of us, embarking on our first pro bono project can seem a little daunting. For lawyers working for the District of Columbia government, it can seem even more complicated, as seemingly countless questions can arise: Who in my office grants me permission to do pro bono work? Where can I obtain malpractice insurance? Am I permitted to use my leave when pro bono activities occur during the workday? How can I be sure my pro bono work poses no conflicts of interest? Fortunately, now all D.C. government lawyers working in the Executive Branch have answers to these and many other questions that are addressed in the new pro bono policy promulgated by the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel. The Mayor’s new policy provides much-needed direction to lawyers who want to give back to their community and discharge their professional responsibilities as attorneys by participating in pro bono work.