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2022 Summer Forum Keynote with Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke

16 May 2022   Blog

The keynote speaker for the 2022 Summer Forum is Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Clarke has dedicated her entire legal career to fighting for civil rights and racial justice. She is a true servant of justice and an outstanding leader. 

Black Women in the Judiciary

16 March 2022   Blog, Featured

On Friday, February 25, 2022, President Joseph R. Biden fulfilled a promise to nominate the first Black woman as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court if given the opportunity.  Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic nomination is momentous, not just because history s being made, but also in recognition of the barriers Black women must overcome in entering and succeeding in the legal profession and, more specifically, on the bench. In honor of Black History Month and Women’s History month, we take a look at some amazing D.C. Black women trailblazers.

Black History Month: Perspectives

28 February 2022   Blog, Featured

In closing out Black History Month 2022, we’d like to share thoughts from some of our dedicated board members. They are mentors and leaders in our community. We are inspired by them every day. I’m sure you will be as well.

Join Our Team as the new Program Director!

23 February 2022   Blog, Featured

Founded in 1971, Washington Council of Lawyers is the only voluntary bar association in the Washington, DC area exclusively devoted to promoting pro bono and public interest law.  We work to ensure that our legal system treats everyone fairly, regardless of money, position, or power. Our members represent the legal community’s diversity: They come from law firms, law schools, legal service providers, government, and other private and nonprofit organizations. We promote pro bono and public-interest law by focusing on four pillars:  training and professional development, mentoring the next generation of public interest lawyers, advocating for issues that expand access to justice, and building a vibrant public interest community. We currently are seeking a Program Director to support our work.

New Year, New Direction!

10 January 2022   Blog, Featured

Happy New Year! Like many of you, I am reflecting on what has come before and what I’m looking forward to in the new year. Usually, that means making personal New Year’s resolutions that I may or may not keep through February and setting professional goals for the next 12 months. But this year is different. This year marks nearly two years since the start of the global pandemic that changed everything, which has prompted us as a society to think about how those who are low-income are most impacted. How we provide services, what effective client representation means, how the courts operate, client and lawyer well-being, and more all became topics of intense discussion and unprecedented cultural shifts.

Give the gift of pro bono inspiration this year!

14 December 2021   Blog, Featured

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are here. Our shopping list now includes gifts for loved ones we hold dear. We want to suggest these six pro bono and racial justice-focused must-reads carefully curated for you or the legal bookworm in your life. We hope these stories inspire you or your gift recipient to spread that holiday feeling of warmth and cheer to others in need by taking on a pro bono commitment in the new year. “A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom” by Brittany Barnett is a riveting memoir about how Barnett’s life was forever changed when she began taking clemency cases pro bono while she worked as a corporate tax lawyer. Her many successes included winning release for many individuals who had been sentenced to life for minor drug infractions. The book is guaranteed to inspire those who read it, as it is a story about hope and justice. “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” by Eldar Shafir and Sendhil Mullainathan delves into research from behavioral science and economics to draw surprising connections between busy attorneys and clients living in poverty, in a way that hopefully encourages attorneys to understand how scarcity affects everyone’s daily lives. They also introduce the idea of fault-tolerant systems, which is so important in thinking about how to serve our clients best. “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley, which is based on the author’s experience growing up as a biracial woman in the Ojibwe community of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a true-crime adventure and an insightful journey into what it means to be a part of two cultures. “Law Man: Memoir of a Jailhouse Lawyer” by Shon Hopwood is about an incarcerated person who, with pro bono counsel, brought some successful prisoners’ rights challenges to the Supreme Court of the United States. “Unbillable Hours: A True Story” by Ian Graham is another easy read: first year, big-law associate takes on pro bono case and discovers the “injustice system.” “How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America” by Clint Smith takes you on an eye-opening tour of various present-day landmarks and explains their connection to the country’s era of slavery.

2021 50th Anniversary Awards Ceremony and Celebration

08 December 2021   Blog, Featured

Even though our 2021 Awards Ceremony was virtual again this year, we had a lot to celebrate and the atmosphere created by our community made it feel like we were all in the same room. Our public interest community is warm, welcoming, insightful, and inspiring, and we brought all those elements and more to honoring our 2021 Awards Recipients. The Law Firm Award recipient Arnold & Porter has been a long-time and committed partner of Washington Council of Lawyers and the public-interest community since the beginning. Pro bono is a fundamental part of the firm’s culture, values, and history. In 2020 alone, firm lawyers provided more than 121,000 hours of pro bono service. And the firm is consistently recognized as a leader in pro bono service. Lastly, we are grateful for the firm’s encouragement of their attorney’s participation in outside organizations such as ours. Retired partners Larry Schneider and Phil Horton, Counsel Mary Kennedy, Lead Attorney & Managing Director of the eData Group Melissa Weberman, and Director of Pro Bono Marsha Tucker have been active and engaged members of our Board of Directors. Their contributions are immeasurable. We are proud to call Arnold & Porter an ally and pleased to honor them for their contributions to our organization and our community. Nichelle Johnson Billips of USAID is a leader among her colleagues and the government in service to the community. She not only engages in pro bono work herself but also promotes pro bono work throughout USAID, helping ensure it remains a priority in the office. As her colleagues note, “Nichelle’s work and leadership serves as an inspiration to us all for how to live our values as lawyers and members of the community.” We were honored to present her with our Government Pro Bono Award. Our Legal Services Award went to Leah Myers from Legal Counsel for the Elderly for her almost 20 years of service to tenants and older adults. Through her management of LCE’s Hotline alone, she has positively impacted nearly 10,000 older adults annually. Her colleagues share that her greatest contribution might be the large number of attorneys and judges that she has trained, mentored, and educated. She is a force to be reckoned with, and a shining example of dedication and commitment. Lastly, it is fitting that in our 50th year, we honored Susie Hoffman, Pro Bono Counsel at Crowell & Moring, with the Presidents Award for Public Service. Susie is a trailblazer, mentor, and leader in the public-interest community. She has dedicated her career to pro bono and has personally made a difference for many families in the District. And she has undertaken numerous leadership roles in our community. But beyond her professional accomplishments, Susie is a true hero to her clients and colleagues. She is simply a legend. 50 Years seems like both a long time and just yesterday. We were thrilled to share this evening with friends old and new, honor truly outstanding pro bono advocates, and celebrate 50 years of service. For more inspiration, rewatch our 50th Anniversary video and Attorney General Karl Racine’s remarks.

2021 Government Pro Bono Award: Nichelle Johnson Billips

11 November 2021   Blog, Featured

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: 2021 Law Firm Award Recipient

09 November 2021   Blog, Featured

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.

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