We are now accepting nominations for our 2020 Legal Services Award and Government Pro Bono Award. Each year at our Awards Ceremony, we recognize the extraordinary work of some of the District’s most dedicated public-interest and pro bono lawyers. Our 2020 Awards Ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 3. Our Legal Services Award recognizes a dynamic legal-services lawyer who represents low-income clients, works to improve access to justice, or thinks creatively to solve difficult legal problems. Our Government Pro Bono Award commends a dedicated government lawyer who also volunteers time to organize pro bono efforts or represent low-income clients. Nomination materials for the Legal Services Award and the Government Pro Bono Award are due by 5 pm on Thursday, October 1, 2020. Nominations should be sent via email to Nancy Lopez at email@example.com. The awards criteria and nomination instructions are below: Legal Services Award Our Legal Services Award recognizes the work of lawyers who serve in the public interest community: the staff attorneys who provide outstanding representation to low-income individuals day in and day out. These may be rising stars or unsung heroes – but they demonstrate a passion for helping people and a hunger for increasing the access to justice. We’re looking for nominees with one or more of the following characteristics: An advocate who has not previously been widely, publicly recognized for her or his work and whose work benefits low-income or otherwise marginalized clients in the Greater DC Metro Region; An individual who supports the DC public interest community in improving the access to justice for those who cannot afford an attorney; An advocate who has endeavored to bring together the public interest, pro bono, and government legal communities to improve the quality and availability of free legal services for those in need; and Someone who has gone above and beyond the normal requirements of their job to assist persons in need or has demonstrated outside-the-box thinking about how to resolve difficult legal issues. Past Winners: 2019 Tricia Monroe, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia 2018 Lindsy Miles-Hare, Ayuda 2017 Tracy Goodman, Children’s Law Center 2016: Thomas “Skip” Mark, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center 2015: Rebecca Lindhurst, Bread for the City 2014: Jodi Feldman, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia Government Pro Bono Award The Government Pro Bono Award highlights the important (and often overlooked) pro bono contributions made by government lawyers. Pro bono service can take many forms and is not limited to direct legal representation or litigation. Past recipients have promoted access to justice in a variety of ways and in many different substantive practice areas. The Government Pro Bono Award recipient will be a government attorney who has made significant pro bono contributions. The pro bono work performed may include, but is not limited to activities such as: Involvement in establishing or implementing an agency pro bono program; Increasing the level of pro bono service by agency attorneys through promotion or facilitation of pro bono opportunities; Mentoring or training agency lawyers handling pro bono matters, litigating cases or providing non-litigation legal services to low income people or entities; or Participating regularly in pro bono clinics. Please note that the above lists of pro bono activities are not exhaustive. We gladly will consider nominations of attorneys who have performed other kinds of pro bono service. Past Winners: 2019 Marissa Schnaith, U.S. Department of Labor 2018 Catalina Martinez, U.S. Small Business Administration 2017 Deborah Birnbaum, U.S. Department of Labor 2016 Katrina Rouse, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2015 Kathryn Legomsky, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development 2014 John Bowers, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2013 Jay Owen, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2012 Edward Eliasberg, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2011 Karen Shrimp, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 2010 John Warshawsky, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2009 Sean Keveney, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2008 Paul Kendall, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice 2007 James Yoon, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2006 Mark Pletcher, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2005 Julie Abbate, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2004 Laura Klein, Pro Bono Program, U.S. Department of Justice 2003 Claire McGuire, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation & Department of Treasury Nomination Instructions Nominations should describe the nominee’s relevant professional activities, including: (1) a description of the legal services and/or other efforts upon which the nomination is based, (2) an explanation of the impact of that work on clients, other advocates, and/or others and (3) the time period covered by the activities. Nomination materials should be no longer than 6 pages in length, including the nomination, resume, and any other supporting documents, such as letters of recommendation. Please submit nomination materials via email to Nancy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline All nominations must be received by 5:00 pm on Friday, October 4. Learn more about the Awards Ceremony and past award winners.
by Nefertari Elshiekh On July 23rd, we wrapped up this year's Summer Forum, with the sixth panel focusing on Criminal Law & Death Penalty. The panelists included: Brandi Harden, Harden & Pinckney, PLLC Callie Heller, ABA Death Penalty Representation Project Daniel Levin, White & Case Bridgette Stumpf, Network for Victim Recovery of DC Liz Wieser, D.C. Office of the Attorney General’s Public Safety Division D.C. Office of the Attorney General's Public Advocacy Division's Stephon Woods facilitated our conversation. Bridgette began by talking about the wide array of services with which her organization provides victims. In DC, which sits at a unique nexus of federal and local law, survivors face additional barriers with regard to accountability and transparency because of the lack of elected prosecutors that many local jurisdictions have. Brandi then went on to describe how growing up in Texas as the only black child in her elementary school impacted her view of the law. Her firsthand experiences with an unfair justice system and her Texan perspective shaped her decision to become a lawyer as she felt she had a responsibility to ensure poor people had exceptional representation even if they couldn't afford a lawyer. Brandi highlighted one staggering statistic: Harris County, in Texas, has more death sentences than anywhere else in the country, and this resonated with Callie, who practiced in Harris County. Callie pointed out the lack of resources provided to attorneys involved with death penalty cases. She helps connect pro bono counsel, who are crucial in filling those gaps, with where the need is greatest. Callie also alluded to the interplay of racial injustice in the work she does through a policy example in North Carolina, where the Racial Justice Act allowed death row inmates to see a commutation of their sentence to life in prison if race was a factor in imposing the death penalty. However, the Act was later repealed, which caused contention over what happens to the six inmates that had applied for or were granted relief while the law was in effect. In June, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that applying the repeal retroactively violated the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto laws. This is a prime example of the importance that policy work plays alongside individual representation in addressing systemic racism in the criminal justice system. In continuing this discussion of racial injustice, the panelists addressed alternative methods to prosecution and the role the Black Lives Matter movement plays in each of their respective organizations. Liz elaborated on the D.C. Office of the Attorney General's restorative justice program, which addresses accountability for some crimes by focusing on the harm done to victims. This approach aims to empower victims while still holding offenders accountable. Bridgette echoed the impact of such a program by noting that when asked, many victims did not want to necessarily engage in a punitive process, but rather wanted to have a conversation that allowed them to elucidate the harm that was done to them. Brandi expressed her hope that the Black Lives Matter movement is exposing the need to redirect resources to better serve and protect the community. From his own experience in working on cases that address gang violence, Daniel described how the people involved in gang violence often had long criminal histories that started with minor crimes committed when they were juveniles. Without another alternative, they were "thrown into the criminal justice system, and it was a spiral that led to more and more criminal behavior." He stressed that as a society we have not done enough to find alternatives to help individuals and give them opportunities to get out of that spiral, but it can be beneficial to everyone to shift resources to these areas. He ended with encouraging the audience to "have discussions, invite people in, and listen to them." Catch up on the conversation and discover pro bono opportunities on social media using #SumFo2020. Nefertari Elshiekh is the 2020 Washington Council of Lawyers Summer Intern.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.