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ABA Lawyer Well-Being Week Round-Up

ABA Lawyer Well-Being Week Round-Up

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. Over the past year, we have held yoga events, alternative happy hours, fielded teams for 5K runs and walks, and held virtual networking events aimed at helping lawyers connect. In addition, we've shared useful information across our social media platforms and participated in the ABA's Well-Being Pledge Member Virtual Workshop Day. Recently, we took part in Lawyer Well-Being Week, a nationwide awareness campaign focusing on lawyer well-being. Throughout the week, we shared content related to many facets of well-being. While we often think of well-being in terms of only physical and mental health, last week encouraged followers to think beyond the black and white and explore the many other facets of wellness, such as spiritual well-being, intellectual well-being, social well-being, and emotional well-being. If you missed our posts on social media from last week, we've summarized them below. And, because well-being is a 24/7/365 endeavor, check back on our social media channels throughout the year for more information and wellness tips. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Monday: Physical Well-Being. Participants were encouraged to do their virtual meetings while standing up and/or walking around. Tuesday: Spiritual Well-Being. Participants were encouraged to identify traits they value and how to honor those in their lives using this worksheet. Wednesday: Intellectual Well-Being. Participants were encouraged to use this worksheet to identify strengths within themselves and others and how to use these strengths to achieve their goals. Thursday: Social Well-Being. Participants were encouraged to write someone in their life a gratitude letter and either read it aloud to them or mail it to them. If you do this, share a photo of yourself on social media with your letter! Friday: Emotional Well-Being. Participants were encouraged to participate in a two-minute stress relief challenge using this worksheet. If you are in need of mental health or wellness help for yourself or a colleague, visit the D.C. Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program website here.

What To Watch During Quarantine – Washington Council Of Lawyers Edition

What to Watch During Quarantine – Washington Council of Lawyers Edition

You may be binge-watching bad Netflix series . . . but you could be inspired by these Washington Council of Lawyers greatest hits instead! Fellowships 101 - Law students!  We are planning our 2020 Fellowships 101 program, but in the meantime, learn about what post-graduate fellowships are and how to apply for them by watching our 2017 Fellowships 101 panel. #RBG always lifts our spirits! Watch the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg at our 2017 Summer Form. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan spoke with our members in the summer of 2019. Her talk is definitely better than anything on Netflix! Worth the watch! Each year, we host Supreme Court: View from the Press Gallery. In 2020, we had a particularly lively discussion with Supreme Court journalists and advocates. Tune in, here! #TBT On April 13 1994, we hosted a Civil Access to Justice forum.  At that time, current D.C. Bar President Susie Hoffman was President of Washington Council of Lawyers. See this long-time social justice warrior in action, here!

COVID- 19 Response Resources

COVID- 19 Response Resources

The following is a list of resources for lawyers serving clients and DC residents in need of support. We will continue to update as more resources become available. ABA COVID-19 Resource Pages Standing Committee for Legal Aid and Indigent Defense page is at this LINK. COVID-19 Resource page is at this LINK. COVID-19 Task Force is at this LINK. This includes information on substantive issues, as well as resources for legal services organizations around remote work, etc. The Task Force is chaired by Jim Sandman, former President of the Legal Services Corporation, and our own Honorary Board member! National Center for State Courts COVID-19 Resource Page Main page is available at this LINK. More specific COVID-19 page is available at this LINK D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Tips for working remotely with your pro bono client is at this LINK. The DC Bar Pro Bono Center's information on economic relief programs is at this LINK. Information about the work of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center during COVID19 is available at this LINK. LawHelp Coronavirus Resources Page is at this LINK. DC COVID-19 Legal Service Providers Operating Status is available at this LINK. D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program The COVID-19 Well-Being Resources are available at this LINK. D.C. Bar  Two articles from the D.C. Bar on small firms and economic relief: Coronavirus Business Survival of Solo Niche is available at this LINK. Financial Aid Resources to Manage the Pandemic is available at this LINK. D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service Resources for lawyers impacted by the pandemic are available at this LINK. Legal Response Resources Paul│Weiss Coronavirus Resource Center is at this LINK. Trustlaw COVID-19 Response is available at this LINK. Bloomberg Law Practical Guide: Coronavirus Toolkit is at this LINK. Virtual Pro Bono Opportunities DC Virtual Pro Bono Fair available at this LINK. Remote refugee assistance through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society at this LINK Remote Immigration Pro Bono Opportunities through Immigration Justice Campaign is at this LINK. Pro Bono Resources Center of Maryland opportunities at this LINK. Links for Helpers from 7.30 DC at this LINK. Local volunteer opportunities list sign-up at this LINK. The Document Assembly Line Project operating out of Suffolk Law's Legal Innovation and Technology Lab is an assembly line working to create mobile-friendly accessible versions of online court forms and pro se materials in multiple languages. To be a part of the assembly line, join the A2J Slack channel by clicking this LINK and volunteers will help find something for you to do. The American Bar Association (ABA) has created a Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal with resources for people affected by COVID-19 and other recent disasters available at this LINK. If/When/How's Legal Research Initiative has short-term and long-term legal research projects for law students and legal professionals. Time dedicated to these projects qualifies for pro bono credit at most law schools and for bar admission. Access the list at this LINK. The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), in partnership with LawFirmElearning, is developing a series of "tips" videos for law students as they begin searching for jobs and preparing to enter the workforce. Click on this LINK to access the video series.  The COVID-19 Rapid Response/Systems Summer Institute, a collaboration between People's Parity Project (PPP), the Systemic Justice Project SJP), and the Justice Catalyst (JC), engages law students in full-time (or part-time) summer legal fellowships. Students will work with legal and law-related organizations responding to the COVID-19 crisis on various projects that involve legal research, writing memos or reports, creating "know your rights" materials, and more. Click this LINK to learn how you can participate.   Sign up to be a part of a network of over 300 law students, paralegals, and student paralegals who are offering to provide remote pro bono support to attorneys and legal aid organizations. Click this LINK to learn more and sign up.   Sign up for National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center's COVID-19 Legal Response listserv and explore resources related to COVID-19 at this LINK. Resources for DC Residents, Families, and Children Children's Law Center's COVID-19 Resources are available at this LINK. Employment & Unemployment resources from First Shift Justice Project are available at this LINK. Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia Non-Legal Resource Guide is available at this LINK. National Veterans Legal Services Program Fact Sheet on the CARES Act Stimulus Program at this LINK and the Economic Assistance Guide for Veterans is available at this LINK. Negotiation Works guides for Negotiating Bills During the COVID-19 Pandemic is at this LINK and Negotiating Household Tensions During the COVID-19 Pandemic is available at this LINK. DC Kincare Alliance COVID-19 Resource Center which includes information on protections for DC Residents is at this LINK. Nation

Rapid Rehousing Program: Implementation Doesn’t Meet Expectations

Rapid Rehousing Program: Implementation Doesn’t Meet Expectations

The RRH Program was designed to help homeless families (with children) become self-sufficient by giving them rental assistance and case management for a period of one year. However, for my client, and many others, the reality is something very different. My experience only touched the tip of the ice berg when it comes to these issues, but it was enough to open my eyes and get me to commit to doing more pro bono work and advocacy work on behalf of the homeless, and families in need. Everyone deserves the right to an adequate place to live, and no young child should have to fear not having a place to sleep at night.
Becoming A Judge

Becoming a Judge

This month we co-hosted Becoming a Judge. Held at the D.C. Court of Appeals, the event gave attendees the opportunity to network with current judges, as well as hear from a panel of judges about their pathways to the bench and tips for applying. Some of the points raised by the judges aligned perfectly with the Council's mission of promoting pro bono and public interest law in the District.
Managing Student Loan Debt

Managing Student Loan Debt

Taking control of your student debt can be a daunting process.  That's why we hosted a panel discussion on Managing Student Debt on February 19, 2020. Jen Tschirch, Assistant Director, Office of Public Interest and Community Service at Georgetown University Law Center and Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member guided the conversation with our panelists Brooke Meckler, Law School Engagement and Advocacy Program Manager at Equal Justice Works; Imoni Washington, Director of Programs at the D.C. Bar Foundation; and Courtney Weiner, Managing Partner of the Law Office of Courtney Weiner PLLC.
Litigation Skills Series: Mediation Training 2020

Litigation Skills Series: Mediation Training 2020

Washington Council of Lawyers hosted a Litigation Skills Series training on Mediation on Friday, February 7, 2020. The training gave participants a strong foundation of negotiation theory followed by the opportunity to put what they learned into practice. Melissa Reinberg, mediator and adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center and Executive Director of Negotiation Works, led the group through a discussion on effective client preparation, how to use leverage in negotiations, and how to manage the mediation process to a successful outcome for clients. Then the sixteen participants participated in two mediation sessions, one as an attorney and one as a client. Through a landlord-tenant fact pattern rife with (intentional) inconsistencies and vital facts known only to the landlord and the tenant, participants were tasked with coming up with a mediation strategy and then putting that strategy into use with an experienced mediator. After the mediations, the Honorable John M. Mott, Senior Judge at The Superior Court of the District of Columbia and current neutral with JAMS Mediation, Arbitration and ADR Services addressed the participants. He spoke about the importance of mediation as a tool for advancing justice and advocating for our clients. The program concluded with a debrief led by Melissa Reinberg, in which participants put together best practices for preparing clients and guidance on the best roles lawyers can play during the mediation. The observations and universal takeaways included those listed here. Best Practices for Attorneys in Preparing Clients: Discuss mediation process Empower client Make sure client understands process is voluntary Discuss what is likely to happen at mediation Find out what client wants and why (i.e., client’s interests) Explore what the client thinks the other party wants and why (ie, the other party’s interests) Help client identify best/worst outcomes Help client identify walk-away alternative/likely outcome if there’s no agreement (ie, BATNA) Consider monetary and time costs to client if case is not settled in mediation Discuss whether client’s goals are realistic in light of the facts and the law Figure out what evidence to bring/present in the mediation Clarify what client is comfortable sharing; distinguish between sharing with all parties vs just the mediator Discuss overall mediation strategy Clarify roles of lawyer and client during mediation (ie, who will speak when) Set up how client will communicate with lawyer during the mediation Decide who will respond to offers (client or lawyer) before going into the mediation Best Roles for Attorneys in the Mediation Process: Guide client but don’t take over Simplify and clarify the process/facts/evidence for client; translate legalese Manage details (eg, do the math calculations) Help client stay focused on current issues being discussed Help prevent client from being sidetracked by collateral disputes Help the client control his or her emotions Manage relations between parties Expand and clarify your client’s perspective Flesh out and reinforce the client’s “good story” Keep an eye on the legal issues, and put client’s facts in legal context (if it’s helpful) Be prepared to jump in and address harder issues so client doesn’t have to Help the client take a step back to evaluate offers and options before accepting or rejecting them Know when to take a break in order to speak to your client about assessing or reassessing options Spin out the contingencies and consequences of the proposals being discussed Engage in reality testing; make sure options under consideration are workable for all Guide your client’s negotiation strategy Mediator comments: Counsel clients by reality testing and let them know what could happen if mediation fails In joint sessions, remember the other side may be hostile or view your client as the enemy Go in with a problem-solving mindset Use mediator as the neutral party he/she is We are grateful to our four mediators Steve Altman, Nancy Cohen, Tiara Jackson, and Carolyn Lerner for their expertise and guidance during the simulations. Their critiques in real time were vital to the rich learning experience and future success of our participants.

Best Practices In Pro Bono: The Social Science Of Doing Good

Best Practices in Pro Bono: The Social Science of Doing Good

Our Best Practices in Pro Bono session on January 15 focused on the Social Science of Doing Good. Our conversation was led by an all-star lineup of panelists: Andrea Mangones from Kids In Need of Defense, Dr. Larry Richard from LawyerBrain, and Kitty Wach from Miller & Chevalier. The Best Practices Session was expertly moderated by  Paul Lee from Steptoe & Johnson LLP. More than 40 pro bono coordinators from law firms, legal services organizations, government agencies, and law schools attended the program. The panel discussed the reasons that lawyers do pro bono, and what methods are effective (or ineffective) for encouraging lawyers to do more pro bono. Dr. Larry Richard highlighted his research on personality traits that set lawyers apart from the general public. He cited his personality study research that demonstrates lawyers tend to be highly skeptical, but lack resilience and sociability. He noted that we are quick to try to use sticks and carrots to motivate pro bono lawyers, but they are often blunt tools that can have unintended consequences. Using the personal touch to build relationships with lawyers to encourage them to do pro bono can be more effective. Kitty Wach highlighted the variety of ways that law firms can encourage and support pro bono work, including making pro bono a mandatory requirement, asking about lawyers' pro bono practice during performance reviews, and including news of pro bono victories alongside news of commercial case victories in firm-wide emails from law firm leaders. Andrea Mangones shared her experience that having colleagues talk about pro bono clients they have helped, or hearing from clients themselves about the impact having a pro bono lawyer had on their lives can be the best ways to encourage lawyers to take on new pro bono cases. To learn more about lawyer personality traits, how to encourage volunteerism, and the benefits for the volunteer of doing pro bono work, check out these resources. We Volunteer To Help Others, But Research Shows How Much It Helps Us, Too, a January 13, 2020 Washington Post article by Jamil Zaki Supporting Justice: The Work of Pro Bono Lawyers, a 2018 report from the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Accountability 101, a 4-part blog post series by Dr. Larry Richard on the psychology of how to hold law partners accountable Herding Cats: The Lawyer Personality Revealed, an article describing the personality traits that set lawyers apart from the general public, also by Dr. Larry Richard Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini Influence: The Science of Persuasion, also by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini Our final two Best Practices in Pro Bono Sessions for this year will take place on Tuesday, March 10, from 8:45-10:15 am, and on Wednesday, April 29, from 12:30-2:00 pm. Look for an email with registration information to circulate soon; if you are not currently a member of Washington Council of Lawyers, join today so you won't miss out! We are grateful to Fried Frank for hosting our entire Best Practices in Pro Bono series! Thank you!

2019 Awards Ceremony

2019 Awards Ceremony

Oh, what a night! Thank you to everyone who joined us at our 2019 Awards Ceremony, and an extra-special thank you to our award recipients for the work that they do to serve our community. We could not have been more excited to honor one of our own, Jen Swedish, with the Above and Beyond Award. While her role as treasurer of the Board of Washington Council of Lawyers is largely unseen, the positive impact she has made on the Council is unmatched. Jen is a key component of our leadership team, and her stewardship of our finances for the last seven years has meant that we have been able to grow and adapt to meet any challenge. It was an honor to have Board Member and past president Paul Lee accept our Law Firm Award on behalf of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Through the efforts of Barbara Kagan, immediate past Pro Bono Counsel for more than 25 years, and with Paul's continuing guidance, Steptoe is a strong leader in the pro bono community. We were proud to recognize the firm's commitment to pro bono service and the myriad ways Steptoe has supported Washington Council of Lawyers in furthering our mission. Marisa Schnaith with the U.S. Department of Labor exemplifies exactly what one person can do with hard work and a drive to help. We were excited to present her with our Government Pro Bono Award. Not only did she dedicate 100 hours of individual pro bono service last year, but she is instrumental in the continuous innovation and expansion of her department's pro bono activities. She is an outstanding example for all government lawyers. Our Legal Service Award recipient Trisha Monroe from Legal Aid is one of those amazing individuals who is both warm and fierce at the same time. She makes her clients feel secure, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, and is dedicated to walking with them as they seek safety, security and healthy relationships.  Over her career, she has been a tireless advocate for more than 6,000 victims of domestic violence and a kind and caring mentor for her family law/domestic violence colleagues across the public interest community. Lastly, were thrilled to award Nicole Austin-Hillery, Executive Director of U.S. Programs at Human Rights Watch with the Presidents Award for Public Service for her legacy of powerful civil rights advocacy on behalf of individuals and for systemic change throughout her career. Nicole's vision, dedication, and leadership have been a true inspiration to the many law students, lawyers and lawmakers who have had the privilege of working with her. She is a true hero. Now, more than ever, our community needs opportunities to come together, celebrate our accomplishments, reflect on the positive influences we have on the lives of our neighbors, and recharge our collective professional batteries. We were thrilled to share this evening with so many wonderful advocates and friends! Keep up the good work and know that the Washington Council of Lawyers stands ready to assist, support and encourage you.             

Nicole Austin-Hillery: 2019 Presidents Award For Public Service

Nicole Austin-Hillery: 2019 Presidents Award for Public Service

Nicole Austin-Hillery has long been recognized as a passionate, mission-driven, and committed civil rights leader fighting for the disenfranchised. As the newly created U.S. Program Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, she directs efforts to end systemic injustice within the United States. Nicole is a fervent advocate for progressive public policies addressing a wide range of human rights issues, from immigration to national security, criminal justice, and civil rights. Nicole has been blazing new trails and taking on unique challenges throughout her career. Before embarking on her current role with Human Rights Watch, Nicole served as the first Director and Counsel of The Brennan Center's Washington, D.C. office where she led policy development and represented the organization before Congress. Nicole pressed for substantive results through her testimony before the Executive Branch and various state and local legislative bodies, and lead conversations that prompted action through her widely-read opinion editorials for major news outlets such as Time Magazine, The Hill, and CNN.com. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Howard University School of Law, Nicole has always fought injustice. She spent her early career as a civil rights attorney at the law firm of Mehri & Skalet, PLLC as part of the firm's civil rights employment class action practice. She also worked as the George N. Lindsay Civil Rights Law Fellow at the national office of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. Nicole puts thought into practice through her wide and far-reaching pro bono service to the legal community. While many know her as the 2018-2019 President of the Washington Bar Association, she also has served as an Advisory Committee Member of the ABA Standing Committee on Election Law and as co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section's Defense Function Committee. Additionally, Nicole inspires the next generation of social justice warriors as an adjunct civil rights professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and as a former Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School. Despite her busy schedule, Nicole has been an insightful contributor to Washington Council of Lawyers. She served as a past President and currently serves as co-chair of the Honorary Board Committee. Nicole is a long-time Washington Council of Lawyers board member and has been a fixture at our Summer Pro Bono and Public Interest Forum. In addition to serving as a breakout session panelist for several years, Nicole has moderated our keynote discussions for the past three years, leading conversations with Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the  Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in 2019, David Cole, ACLU National Legal Director in 2018, and The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017. Nicole is flawless in leading warm and engaging conversations that highlight current legal issues. She has also participated in our Racial Justice Series programs, including an examination of the events in Ferguson and how to address ongoing racism in the justice system. Nicole is a tireless advocate for those living in the margins of society. It is an honor to award the 2019 Presidents Award for Public Service to Nicole Austin-Hillery.

2019 Government Pro Bono Award: Marisa Schnaith

2019 Government Pro Bono Award: Marisa Schnaith

Marisa Schnaith is a pro bono superstar. Not only has she contributed an impressive number of pro bono hours, over 100 in the past year alone, but she has made significant contributions to the Department of Labor's Pro Bono Program. That is why we're thrilled to award her with the 2019 Government Pro Bono Award.
Trisha Monroe: 2019 Legal Services Award

Trisha Monroe: 2019 Legal Services Award

"Superb."  "Exceptional."  "One of the fiercest advocates for domestic violence survivors I have ever met."  These are just a few of the superlatives colleagues use to describe Trisha Monroe, our 2019 Legal Services Award Recipient.
Jen Swedish: 2019 Above & Beyond Award

Jen Swedish: 2019 Above & Beyond Award

They say it's always the quiet ones. In our case, the quiet one is a force. Quietly, and without fanfare, Jen Swedish simply gets things done. Effectively. Excellently. Extraordinarily. As one of her fellow board members aptly stated, "She has a behind-the-scenes role that even most Board members don't fully see. But Jen has provided a critical service to Washington Council of Lawyers." Jen has been a member of Washington Council of Lawyers Board of Directors for 10 years. And for 7 of those years, she has served as our Treasurer. There is nothing glamorous or exciting about the weekend and late-night hours Jen has spent pouring over spreadsheets and reconciling bank accounts. However, it is vitally important work that ensures our financial stability and ability to serve our mission. She has fearlessly tackled the IRS's complex rules and regulations, always ensuring we are doing exactly what needs to be done. She is adept with Excel, creating pivot tables and using shortcuts to make the work easier. These may sound like trivial talents. They are not! Jen's work over the years has saved Washington Council of Lawyers thousands of dollars in accounting and bookkeeping expenses. A long-time board member said it best, "In a small organization, it is vital to have passionate board members who are willing to take on the difficult tasks. Jen has consistently demonstrated her passion for Washington Council of Lawyers through her long-time stewardship of our finances and her dedication to our success. She has been a key component of our leadership team, and through her efforts, has ensured our ability to meet any challenge." Jen contributes this valuable volunteer service while juggling the obligations imposed by judges, discovery schedules, and travel stemming from her active caseload as a full-time litigator at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the competing demands of having and raising three precious children.  (We like to think of them as future public-interest lawyers.) She also has been a key contributor to the work of our committees, especially the Personnel Committee. Her insights and financial acumen have helped the Washington Council of Lawyers make solid decisions so that we have been able to grow our membership, offer more trainings to pro bono and public-interest lawyers, advocate effectively for increased access to justice, and build a stronger public-interest community.  Although Jen's work has been in the background, it is central to advancing our mission. Two of the four pillars of our mission are training public-interest lawyers and developing leaders in the public-interest community. Jen was supporting these pillars even before she joined the board by serving as a co-chair of our Mentoring Program. As an alumnae of the program herself, she has been generous with her time in advising other co-chairs on how to effectively lead the program, and serving as a panelist at Mentoring Program events. Our Above & Beyond Award gives us the opportunity to thank Jen for a thankless job. We are pleased to take public notice of her dependability and dedication. We honor the talents she has shared with us and the hours she has devoted. We are grateful for her contributions and thrilled to recognize Jen Swedish as the 2019 recipient of our Above & Beyond Award.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP: 2019 Law Firm Award Recipient

Steptoe & Johnson LLP: 2019 Law Firm Award Recipient

Steptoe & Johnson and their long-time, former Pro Bono Counsel Barbara Kagan, have been staunch supporters of Washington Council of Lawyers since our inception in 1971. That is why we are pleased to highlight their outstanding commitment to public service and partnership with Washington Council of Lawyers and the larger D.C. pro bono community to advance access to justice in our community with our 2019 Law Firm Award.
Pro Bono In Protest: Protecting First Amendment Freedoms In The District

Pro Bono in Protest: Protecting First Amendment Freedoms in the District

D.C. hosts over 2,000 protests a year.  This unique landscape gives local lawyers an amazing chance to protect democracy and uphold the First Amendment. To highlight and promote pro bono opportunities in this exciting area, the Washington Council of Lawyers hosted Pro Bono in Protest: Protecting First Amendment Freedoms in the District on October 22, 2019 at Steptoe & Johnson, with co-sponsorship from the American Constitution Society, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association.
Discussing Black Maternal Health And Domestic Violence

Discussing Black Maternal Health and Domestic Violence

Every year, pregnancy-related complications kill about 700 women. That’s bad enough, but the racial disparity makes it even worse: Compared to white women, black women are three times more likely to die because of pregnancy. Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community wants more people to learn about this gap and, more generally, that too many black women and black babies suffer avoidable deaths. Ujima provides culturally specific services and resources about domestic, sexual, and community violence. Says its Executive Director, Gretta Gardner, "We hope to bring awareness that will spur conversations in the community about how we have to rely on each other to reduce harm and raise awareness instead of relying solely on systems and institutions." So two weeks ago (on Monday, October 14), Ujima held an event at Busboys and Poets in Anacostia to discuss black maternal health and how it relates to domestic violence. The program was one of over thirty District events held in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Moderated by Ujima Senior Policy Attorney Megan Simmons, the panel featured two reproductive-rights leaders: Dr. Jamila Perritt (a local OBGYN and member of the District's Maternal Mortality Review Committee) and Jessica Pinckney (Vice President of Government Affairs at In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda). The panelists were blunt about the relationship between domestic violence and maternal health. "Many folks who will someday become pregnant or potentially become mothers or parents have often experienced some type of abuse or violence in their life," said Pinckney. And "there is no way to separate the trauma or that experience from both the experience of being pregnant and the experience of being a parent." In fighting these problems, the panelists stressed, there's no substitute for knowing about reproductive justice and its history. As Dr. Perritt explained, "If you don’t understand reproductive justice, you will continue to see inequities." And, she added, "you can’t understand the inequalities with medical care unless you understand the history." Because of this history, for instance, some African-Americans distrust medical professionals; that distrust can affect the quality of care delivered and received. As a result, doctors and other medical providers need to ask better questions to learn whether someone is a victim of violence: "You have to ask if something is going on." Unfortunately, quite a bit is going on. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, last year District domestic-violence organizations served an average of 589 victims—each day. Bit by bit, groups like Ujima are working to change that. Learn more about Ujima, Inc. here.

Pro Bono Week 2019: Paul Thompson – Appellate Pro Bono

Pro Bono Week 2019: Paul Thompson – Appellate Pro Bono

Paul Thompson, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery LLP, is a very successful, well-known appellate lawyer. Despite his busy practice, he regularly uses his skills and experience to advocate on behalf of pro bono clients. He handles a wide-range of appeals on behalf of pro bono clients and is a frequent author of amicus briefs.  Two of his most noteworthy efforts this year highlight Paul's commitment to pro bono.
Pro Bono Week Profiles 2019: Jane Garrido – Making Housing Vouchers Work

Pro Bono Week Profiles 2019: Jane Garrido – Making Housing Vouchers Work

Voucher discrimination is rampant in DC.  Every day, new apartment ads are posted online that say no vouchers, and every day people are illegally rejected from housing because a landlord does not want to accept vouchers.  This problem is so widespread and so harmful that it demanded the attention of Neighborhood Legal Services Program.  Once we started working on it, we quickly realized the significant impact pro bono attorneys could have. In 2017, NLSP piloted the idea of collaborating with government pro bono volunteers to file Office of Human Rights (OHR) complaints against landlords who turned people away from housing because they had vouchers. Jane Garrido was one of the first pro bono attorneys to file an OHR complaint on behalf of someone experiencing voucher discrimination.  She and one of her colleagues at the Department of Labor helped a man who was experiencing homelessness to navigate the OHR process and to demand justice from the landlord who had rejected him illegally. After that first experience, Jane came back for more. And kept coming back!
Pro Bono Week 2019: Tammy Hui – Inspired By The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Pro Bono Week 2019: Tammy Hui – Inspired by the Entrepreneurial Spirit

For Tammy Hui, a volunteer with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Small Business Legal Assistance Program, entrepreneurship is in her blood.  Tammy is a native of Edmonton, the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta, where she grew up as the daughter of a general contractor father and the niece of automotive shop owners and restauranteurs.  "That's what attracted me to business owners, that entrepreneurial spirit,” she says.  “Folks who are willing to make huge leaps without any protection.  I'm drawn to helping those people as best I can."
Pro Bono Week 2019: Karen Zacharia – Prioritizing Pro Bono

Pro Bono Week 2019: Karen Zacharia – Prioritizing Pro Bono

"Busy." It seems this one word has become an increasingly acceptable answer any time a friend or colleague asks "How are you?" As Chief Privacy Officer of Verizon, Karen Zacharia would be justified in doing this. But she won't. Not unless you ask her outright. And she is never too busy for pro bono. In a city full of capable, ambitious attorneys eager to prove how busy they are by commiserating about outlandish deadlines and skipped meals, Karen, sets an example by finding time to do pro bono work and encouraging others to do the same. "I recently heard someone use the phrase 'ruthless prioritization.'" She says. "That phrase very aptly describes how I manage my time.  I determine what is most important for me professionally and personally and try to focus on those items as much as possible.  I appreciate how fortunate I am, and it has always been important to me to try to 'give back' to others."
Pro Bono Week 2019 Profile: Bez Stern – Representing Unaccompanied Children

Pro Bono Week 2019 Profile: Bez Stern – Representing Unaccompanied Children

In recent years, the complexities of immigration advocacy have dominated headlines and galvanized the legal field.  Representing unaccompanied children is a uniquely difficult task due to fear within the immigrant community, mistrust of legal and immigration systems, and challenges like family separation and increased barriers to relief.  Children come to the United States fleeing horrific violence, severe abuse, deep poverty, gangs and other unimaginable harm. As the number of unaccompanied minors entering the United States rises, so does the need for quality representation of these children in their immigration cases. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) recruits child-friendly pro bono attorneys to take on this important casework and KIND’s Washington, D.C. office was fortunate to find Bezalel Stern, Special Counsel at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.
Pro Bono Week 2019 Profile: Maryam Casbarro – Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors

Pro Bono Week 2019 Profile: Maryam Casbarro – Empowering Domestic Violence Survivors

Maryam Casbarro immigrated to the United States from Ghana with her parents when she was a young girl.  She recalls how after her family settled in the Bronx, NY, her parents "regularly engaged in community service and were active in their local African immigrant community."  In particular, Maryam recounts how her parents invited several newly immigrated women who were facing domestic violence in their own homes to stay with her family. "Overhearing the discussions between my mother and these women, I was moved by their experiences," Maryam said.  "Immigrant survivors can feel even more vulnerable being in a new country and often are unaware of the resources available to them.  It didn’t matter how well educated or highly regarded these women may have been in their home countries.  When experiencing domestic violence, they needed help." Maryam's early exposure to the impact of domestic violence has had a profound impact on her and has guided her pro bono practice as she has forged her professional career.
Washington Council Of Lawyers & D.C. Bar Pro Bono Task Force  Announce Launch Of Family Law Career Development Program

Washington Council of Lawyers & D.C. Bar Pro Bono Task Force Announce Launch of Family Law Career Development Program

Washington Council of Lawyers and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Task Force are collaborating to bring a new initiative to family law practitioners in D.C. this September. The Family Law Career Development Program is a 12-month intensive mentoring program for newer family law practitioners. It's also a way for family law attorneys to give back to their community by providing critical pro bono representation to D.C. families unable to afford a lawyer.
Our Theme For 2019-2020: #WCLawyers4Justice

Our Theme for 2019-2020: #WCLawyers4Justice

At the core of our mission is our work striving to ensure our legal system treats everyone fairly, regardless of money, position or power. This year, we wanted to find ways to highlight just what access to justice means to our staff, members, and community partners. A common theme emerged: #WCLawyers4Justice.