July 7th kicked off our annual Summer Forum event with a keynote address from the Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest appellate court for the District. In conversation with Jim Sandman, President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation and a distinguished lecturer and senior consultant to the Future of the Profession Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Honorable Blackburne-Rigsby began by talking about how her early experiences of being born in Washington D.C. during the height of the Civil Rights Movement ignited her interest in the law. Many of her heroes included judges and civil rights icons, who shaped her perspective of the power of law to ensure equality, and she knew this was something of which she wanted to be a part.
In his 2014 memoir Just Mercy, attorney Bryan Stevenson tells the world how he found his professional purpose: overhauling the United States’ prison system. Stevenson spent his 1L summer at the Southern Center for Human Rights assisting prisoners on Alabama’s death row. Today, Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative takes on not only the death penalty but also wrongful convictions, inhumane prison conditions, and the placement of children in adult correctional facilities. You do not need to be Bryan Stevenson to work on criminal justice issues. Join us for our final virtual panel, Criminal Law & the Death Penalty, on Thursday, July 23 at noon to learn how you can get involved.
At our 2020 Summer Forum, the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties panel will discuss how lawyers can be involved in the fight to protect civil rights & civil liberties. The panel will explore the critical role lawyers play in protecting individuals exercising First Amendment speech rights at protests, providing post-arrest assistance, and making sure that issues like voters’ rights are guaranteed during a time when in-person voting may not be possible. All of these issues and more will be discussed at the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel on Tuesday, July 21 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET.
2020 Summer Forum Preview: Opportunities for Individual Representation and Systemic Advocacy Abound in Human Rights & Immigration Law
At our 2020 Summer Forum, the popular Human Rights & Immigration panel will discuss how advocates are fighting to protect immigrants’ basic human rights under extraordinarily difficult circumstances in the COVID-19 pandemic. This panel continues to be a superb opportunity for law students, recent graduates, and new lawyers to learn how to advocate for immigrants across diverse practice areas.
Individuals living in poverty face numerous issues both legal and non-legal every day. In these uncertain and rapidly-changing times, those at or below the federal poverty level are being disproportionally displaced, harassed, and abused. Lawyers who practice in this area have to employ both traditional techniques and creative problem-solving methods to ensure the best outcomes for their clients. The areas of law the legal issues touch upon – landlord tenant, consumer, family – have the highest rate of pro se litigants and can produce some of the most life-changing outcomes. Representation is vital in these areas, and the need is overwhelming. Pro bono lawyers who take on these cases can be life-savers. Join us on Tuesday, July 14 at noon for the second in our series of five breakout panels exploring the means to incorporate pro bono into your professional life and avenues to support under-represented individuals.
Not all battles are won in the courtroom. As many know, litigation is lengthy, costly, and in many instances, not needed. One study found upwards of 92 percent of cases settle out of court, and in fact, for many litigants, trying to reach an out of court settlement is better for both parties. Pro bono attorneys play a crucial role not only in helping pre-trial settlement agreements reach fruition, and in making sure that both parties are adequately represented, but also in a host of other transactional law matters from ensuring that clients are complying with statutes and regulations, to advocating for policies that will bring about needed change and reform to our legal system.
The recent killings of Black men and women coupled with the disproportionate number of deaths in the Black community due to COVID-19 have rocked our nation. Across the country, lawyers are brainstorming and banding together to develop creative and impactful methods to assist the Black community. I challenge the legal profession to start in-house at our own firms and organizations by becoming mentors and sponsors to Black lawyers.
2020 has been a doozy of a year. Pro bono and public-interest lawyers normally are stretched thin due to the challenging nature of the work they do and the limited resources they have to support their work. Many in the public-interest community experience secondary trauma when they are indirectly exposed to the traumas that their clients experience. This can be a complicated situation to navigate even under normal circumstances. This year, the challenges of pro bono and public-interest work are amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help, we have signed on to to the ABA Lawyer Well-Being Pledge and are offering opportunities for our members to connect and de-stress, as well as resources, tips, and informative articles for people who want to learn more about how to stay well while navigating a stressful profession.