Our inaugural Legal Services Award goes to Jodi Feldman, Supervising Attorney for Pro Bono and Training Programs at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Jodi is known throughout our legal community for her work ethic and commitment to pro bono service, but she also has been called the quintessential “unsung hero.” Most of her work involves building infrastructure behind the scenes – creating and improving programs that enable pro bono attorneys to provide high-quality legal help to thousands of people in need. After graduating from Georgetown Law, Jodi practiced at Wiley Rein before becoming a Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator of the Legal Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health. Jodi then joined Legal Aid in 2004, and jumpstarted its pro bono program. Legal Aid has increased the number of cases it places with volunteers every year for the past four years. Last year, attorneys contributed a staggering $16.5 million worth of attorney time for Legal Aid. Jodi’s work has increased not only the quantity of Legal Aid’s referrals, but also the quality of the resulting representation. She carefully matches pro bono lawyers with appropriate cases, makes sure that those lawyers get a Legal Aid mentor while working on their cases, and follows each case’s progress to its finish. She meets with various law firms throughout Washington, DC and coordinates firm-specific trainings. Jodi’s leadership also inspired unemployment-insurance referral relationships with both Arnold & Porter and McKenna Long & Aldridge and led to the establishment and maintenance of Skadden’s domestic violence Impact Project. On top of all of that, Jodi has given back to our legal community. She manages Legal Aid’s student intern program. She has been an active member of Washington Council of Lawyers and served on our board for several years. In fact, one board member notes that Jodi’s enthusiasm inspired her to become a member and participate in our events. Jodi is dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic – and she gets results. We couldn’t be more pleased to honor her with our Legal Services Award. You can learn more about Jodi and our other award winners at our 2014 Awards Ceremony.
Over the past few years, we've expanded our programs, events, and activities. In fact, we've been expanding so much that we needed more staff to keep all of the trains running. So we're pleased to announce that Lydia C. Watts will be joining us as our Associate Director. A summa cum laude graduate of American University's Washington College of Law, Lydia has an impressive and diverse array of experience and a deep commitment to public interest law. She is Deputy Director of the DC Access to Justice Commission, which works to address barriers to the justice systems facing low- and moderate-income people in Washington, DC. Since September 2005, Lydia has also been a Principal of Greater Good Consulting, which specializes in nonprofit organizational development. Lydia was previously Executive Director and Co-Founder of Women Empowered Against Violence, Director of Quality and Program Enhancement of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Executive Director of the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. She is the founding board chair of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC, a holistic service provider for victims of crimes in Washington, DC. And she serves on the Board of Directors of Mentoring Today. As for her new position, Lydia is as excited as we are: "I am so honored to join the staff of the Washington Council of Lawyers. As a long-time public interest attorney in DC, I am very familiar with all of its amazing programs, events, and opportunities to keep our community informed and united. I am eager to be a part of expanding those offerings and getting to know our members even better." A warm welcome to Lydia, and we hope you all get to meet her soon!
We're pleased to announce the winners of our 2014 Awards: Legal Services Award Jodi Feldman Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia Government Pro Bono Award John Bowers US Department of Justice, Civil Division Law Firm Award Sidley Austin LLP Above & Beyond Award Gregory Lipper Americans United for Separation of Church and State Presidents' Award for Public Service Avis Buchanan Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia Please congratulate these fine folks and organizations, and join us for the Awards Ceremony on December 4, at 6:30 pm.
This fall we're welcoming six new lawyers to our Board of Directors. Learn a little about them below: Allison Holt (@allisonmholt) is a litigation associate at Hogan Lovells, and she currently serves as the firm's full time senior associate for the pro bono practice. Among other cases, Allison represents homeless families seeking access to appropriate emergency shelter during hypothermic conditions, and is currently working with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project on a criminal case in Virginia. Christina Jackson (@CJacksonPSJD) is Director of Public Interest Initiatives & Fellowships at NALP, where she researches and promotes access-to-justice initiatives. From 2009 to 2013, Christina served as the Public Interest Specialist at American University Washington College of Law. Sara Jackson (no relation to Christina, as far as we know) is the Pro Bono Coordinator at Georgetown University Law Center. Sara previously spent five years as a practicing lawyer specializing in civil rights and racial justice. Marcia Maack is Assistant Director of Pro Bono Activities for Mayer Brown LLP. Her pro-bono work focuses on international human rights, asylum, and refugee cases. Marcia also sits on the board of directors of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice. Jaya Saxena (@thezenlegalmama) is an Assistant Director at George Washington University Law School's Center for Professional Development and Career Strategy. She previously served as a career counselor at George Mason University School of Law and a lawyer at Maryland Legal Aid. Jaya has also held leadership positions on the Board of Directors of the South Asian Bar Association of Washington, DC. V. David Zvenyach (@vdavez) currently serves as the General Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia. David is also Chair-Elect of the DC Bar's Sections Council. In his spare time, David designs web apps focused on making legal information more widely available; his team recently took third place at the ABA's "Hackcess to Justice" conference, for an app called Due Processor.
We are a mostly-volunteer organization with an all-volunteer board from whom we select all-volunteer officers. Thanks to these board members for serving as our officers for 2014–2015. Paul Lee (President) is Pro Bono Manager at Dechert. He previously served as the pro bono coordinator for Kids in Need of Defense. Paul has run ten marathons and has bungee jumped off of Victoria Falls Bridge. He also obsesses over maps and knows every world capital. Jim Rubin (VP) is Counsel at Dentons, where he focuses on environmental and natural resource issues. Jim previously spent fifteen years at DOJ’s environmental division and a year at the White House working on climate issues. But after serving as a guest bartender at our “serving justice program” this summer, Jim is seriously reconsidering his choice of profession. Kelly Voss (Secretary) is Pro Bono Counsel at Covington & Burling. Before joining Covington, Kelly was a staff attorney at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau. When not working or otherwise thinking about public interest law, Kelly likes rooting for the Nationals, spending time outdoors, and dabbling in countless hobbies (even mastering a few of them). Patty Stasco (Treasurer) practiced for five years at Arnold & Porter, especially enjoying her pro bono immigration work. She now works as an attorney for the federal government. On her down time you’ll likely find her woodworking, shopping at the farmer’s market, or watching school buses go by with her twenty-one-month old son excitedly shouting, “Bus! Bus!” Greg Lipper (Communications Director) is Senior Litigation Counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Before that, he did trial and appellate litigation for six years at Covington & Burling. Greg loves animals (especially dogs, bears, and elephants) and would love to be interviewed by Grover. You can find him on Twitter at @theglipper.
This summer, we had the privilege to work with a fantastic college student, Mike Mazzella. As Mike’s summer internship with us wraps up, we asked him a few questions: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself? I’m a rising Senior at the University of Arizona Honors College, and I’m majoring in Communication with an emphasis on Pre-Law. I’m also a member of two fraternities, and a former Student Body Senator. Pre-Law? So you want to be a lawyer? Yes! I first got interested in law in high school on my debate team. I started following big cases, getting involved with politics, and delivering more public speeches. I found that I had a talent for rhetoric and research. Plus I’ve always wanted to do something that puts me in a position to help other people. What attracted you to Washington Council of Lawyers? I think Washington Council of Lawyers is great because we not only want to help those in need of assistance, but we also want to help people improve their standard of living. The legal community can have a monumental impact on the lives of those in need: everything from helping people find jobs, to keeping a roof over their heads, and making sure they have access to affordable and nutritious foods. It feels good to give back, but it feels even better to have a hand in solving an ongoing problem. What was your favorite part about working for us this summer? All of the amazing people I’ve met this summer. I was lucky enough to be paired with an amazing boss [editors note: Mike is referring to our Executive Director, Nancy Lopez] who thought it was important to introduce me to as many lawyers and public advocates as possible. I’ve really gotten the inside perspective on public-interest law and what it takes to make it. Their advice and encouragement has set me up perfectly for the next four years. What exactly did you do for us this summer? I washed Nancy’s car and walked her dogs…No, I’m just kidding. Mostly I helped to spread the word and set up for events that we hosted. A lot of it was logistics: making name badges, organizing guest lists, setting up the spaces, designing posters, taking notes, and conducting interviews. What is the most important project you’ve worked on this summer? That would have to be the East of the River Blog. For about the past month I’ve sat on a committee designed to create a blog with the goal of inspiring lawyers in DC to do more pro bono work east of the Anacostia River. Our plan is to demonstrate the benefits of doing that kind of work by showcasing some success stories and interviewing the people who made them possible. You’ll see the results of our efforts beginning this fall. Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy. What do you do in your spare time? Here? Sleep! Or I hang out with my friends in the dorm where I’m staying. I’m also taking two classes right now, so that takes up a lot of my time as well. When I’m back home, I perform every week with my improv comedy troupe, and that keeps me going until the weekend. Do you see a future for yourself here in DC? Absolutely, I love this city. I could completely see myself going to school here and then staying to pursue my career. I’ve figured out the subway system, so by now I’m practically a native. Thanks, Mike, and thanks for all of your help this summer! We can't wait to welcome you back to the DC legal community!
For more information, visit http://www.probono.net/dc/calendar/ _______ Tuesday, June 17 | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm Caregiver Representation Pro Bono Attorney Training – Children’s Law Center Steptoe & Johnson (1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Red Line: Dupont Circle) Register at www.childrenslawcenter.org/pro-bono-home Current and prospective pro bono attorneys are invited to learn about adoption, guardianship, and custody law and practice, and representing caregivers in these cases. A light lunch will be provided. _______ Wednesday, June 18 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Public Interest Happy Hour – Washington Council of Lawyers & Children’s Law Center Children’s Law Center (616 H Street, NW; Red Line: Gallery Place) All are welcome! Invite a friend to join you! _______ Thursday, June 19 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: DC Superior Court – Washington Council of Lawyers Jones Day (300 New Jersey Avenue, NW; Red Line: Union Station) Three Superior Court judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment. _______ Tuesday, June 24 | 11:00 am – 1:00 pm Legal Advocacy for People With Intellectual Disabilities – DC Department on Disability Services, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, and Project Action Arent Fox LLP (1717 K Street, NW; Red Line: Farragut North) RSVP to email@example.com An interactive brown bag discussion of: practice tips, ethical obligations, reasonable accommodations, advocacy support, and more. _______ Wednesday, June 25 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch and Law: Bullying – Children’s Law Center Conference Call: Dial 605–562–3000 and use passcode 964021# No RSVP is required; learn more at http://www.childrenslawcenter.org/ A discussion of Children’s Law Center’s efforts to address bullying in DC schools. _______ Tuesday, July 8 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: DC Court of Appeals – Washington Council of Lawyers DC Court of Appeals (430 E Street, NW – Multipurpose Room; Red Line: Judiciary Square) Three Court of Appeals judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment. _______ Wednesday, July 9 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships – Washington Council of Lawyers Georgetown Law (600 New Jersey Avenue, NW – Hart Auditorium; Red Line: Union Station) A panel discussion of the ins and outs of project-based fellowship programs. Expert panelists will offer tips and insights about how to craft the best fellowship proposals while in law school. _______ Thursday, July 10 | 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm An Evening at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Arent Fox LLP Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW; Orange/Blue Line: Smithsonian) For more information, contact Emily.Dorsey@arentfox.com Gerard Leval, General Counsel of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and a partner at Arent Fox LLP, will discuss legal issues relating to the development of the museum and those affecting the museum’s operations since its opening in 1993. _______ Wednesday, July 16 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm Public Interest Happy Hour – Washington Council of Lawyers Thomas Foolery (2029 P Street, NW; Red Line: Dupont Circle) Celebrity guest bartenders pour your drink: Jim Sandman (Legal Services Corporation), Paul Smith (Jenner & Block), Virginia Sloan (The Constitution Project), and William Treanor (Georgetown University Law Center). _______ Friday, July 18 | 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm Practicing Public Interest Law East of the Anacostia River: 4th Annual Summer Panel Discussion with the East of the River Casehandlers Deanwood Library (1350 49th Street, NE; Orange Line: Deanwood) To register, contact Heather Hodges at 202.269.5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org A discussion about student internships and pro bono opportunities east of the river, the DC Bar Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program for public interest lawyers in DC, and the DC legal services providers that serve the low-income residents of the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods east of the river. _______ Thursday, July 24 | 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: Office of Administrative Hearings – Washington Council of Lawyers Arnold & Porter LLP (555 12th Street, NW; Orange/Blue/Red Line: Metro Center) Three DC Office of Administrative Hearings judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment. _______ Wednesday, July 30 | 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: US District Court for the District of Columbia – Washington Council of Lawyers McDermott Will & Emery (500 North Capitol Street, NW; Red Line: Union Station) Three DC District Court judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment. _______ Monday, August 18 – Friday, August 22 13th Annual Human Rights on the Hill – University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law To join the list for more information, including a session schedule, write to JFL@udc.edu The course features presentations from a wide range…
On June 12, we held our annual Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum. We were joined at Arnold & Porter by over two hundred eager lawyers, summer associates, and legal interns—eager to learn about how to make public service and pro bono work an integral part of their legal careers. Our Executive Director Nancy Lopez got things underway by sharing a line from “For Good”—from the musical Wicked—describing how we can be changed for the better by the people who come into our lives. Nancy drew not only the obvious conclusion—that clients in need can have their lives changed by lawyers who care—but also the converse: that clients can change their lawyers for the better too. Then it was on the keynote speech, delivered by Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation. After urging everyone to join Washington Council of Lawyers, Jim shared some words of encouragement and advice for new lawyers. Among other things, lawyers shouldn’t feel the need to devise a master plan: “You shouldn’t have a plan,” Sandman said, because “opportunities for change are around every corner and you should welcome them and follow those that prove promising to bigger and better accomplishments.” He urged young lawyers to get involved in their communities, retain flexibility by living beneath their means—“I drove over here today in my 2003 Honda Civic. With a smile on my face, because I love what I do”—and to work hard on time management. The rousing and humorous speech concluded with Sandman telling the crowd to “find and collect as many mentors as possible. They can even be younger then you, but find people who inspire and motivate you and don’t let them go.” Attendees then broke out into one of five sessions. Each featured panels of experienced lawyers and advocates with experience in a particular field of public-interest or pro bono work. Attendees learned (among many other things) about the diverse career paths of civil-rights lawyers; coping with the intense emotional demands of criminal litigation; the complicated legal and humanitarian issues involved in immigration cases; the unique skills that new lawyers can develop working on pro bono transactional matters, and the desperate need for representation of parties in DC family court. It was a ton of information and inspiration packed into just over two hours. And we can’t wait for next year’s event!
On May 28, we cosponsored (along with the Constitution Project, the Innocence Project, and Steptoe and Johnson) a panel on the recent exoneration of Sabein Burgess. Burgess spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aleta Spraguehas this report on the panel. At age 24, Sabein Burgess was convicted of murdering his girlfriend at their Baltimore home. His defense attorney called no witnesses during the two-day trial. Burgess was sentenced to life in prison; he remained incarcerated until this year –despite the emergence of contradictory eyewitness testimony and another man’s confession. Eventually, a team of attorneys demonstrated that he was convicted based on faulty forensic evidence. On February 21, 2014, Burgess, now 43, was finally able to return home. The panel featured attorneys from both Steptoe and Johnson and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), which worked together on behalf of Burgess. The panelists explained how the justice system failed Burgess by providing an ineffective defense attorney and repeatedly disregarding evidence of his innocence after his conviction – particularly the confession of Charles Dorsey, who today is considered the primary suspect. The conviction of Burgess rested almost entirely on questionable gunshot residue evidence – the validity of which wasformally reassessed by the FBI in 2005. Gunshot residue evidence has a high risk of contamination; today, the FBI has stopped using this type of evidence. Parisa Dehghani-Tafti of the Innocence Project explained how gunshot residue evidence and other forensic science tools were created by law enforcement, are subject to confirmation bias, and generally lack scientific rigor. Indeed, according to MAIP, “flawed forensic science testimony has been a factor in more than half of the DNA exonerations nationwide and in more than 20 percent of all exonerations nationwide.” Unfortunately, the Burgess story is not unique. A 2012 study found that more than 2000 individuals had been convicted and then exonerated of serious crimes since 1989. Mere weeks before Burgess’ release, another study found that exonerations in the U.S. have reached a record high—though an increasing number are linked to false confessions induced by plea bargains, rather than DNA evidence. Most disturbingly, a recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that nearly one in twenty convictions in capital cases are wrongful – meaning that around 120 of the 3000 individuals on death row are innocent. As one panelist noted, “you have to think twice about the death penalty itself…when a case like this makes its way through the system.” Attorneys who worked on the case urged audience members to find ways to become involved with exoneration work (or with any pro bono cause that speaks to their passions). To learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and identify opportunities to volunteer, click here.
On Wednesday, January 29, we'll be hosting Pro Bono Without Borders, a panel discussion about global pro bono. To preview the event, Renuka Nagaraj interviewed Jessica Ryckman, Special Counsel & Program Manager at Lawyers Without Borders, about doing pro bono work with an international dimension. Here's what Jessica had to say: How did LWOB start, and what was the inspiration for it? Christina Storm, the current director, started LWOB about 15 years ago. At the time, she wanted to volunteer for an international program and she could not find any outlets to do this. This inspired her to start a quality program for lawyers and judges who wanted to do pro bono work abroad. What is the mission of LWOB? LWOB focuses on strengthening the rule of law and increasing access to justice around the world and providing pro bono lawyers the opportunity to work on these projects. How did you personally get involved with LWOB? I was working at a law firm and wanted to work on an international pro bono project. I found a project in Liberia that provided training for attorneys and judges on human trafficking laws. After working on this project in Liberia for about 3 weeks, I was hooked and wanted to do this kind of work full-time. I asked Christina Storm if there were any opportunities and fortuitously, LWOB was looking for someone in DC at that time. What do you do at LWOB? I am a Project Manager and Special Counsel and manage some of LWOB’s Africa programs. For example, I have been working, in conjunction with the US Department of State, on a Liberian human trafficking program, which produces in-person trainings and educational materials. I also work on LWOB’s Kenya initiative, which is creating an independent, Kenyan national-led program and also produces annual trainings there. What are the different kinds of projects that LWOB offers? There is a wide range of programs. LWOB does a lot of trainings for judges, lawyers and law enforcement abroad. We also send participants to observe important court proceedings as a neutral party to report on procedure and fairness at the proceedings. For example, LWOB volunteers observed the Caprivi Strip treason trial in Namibia, the longest and largest trial in this country’s history. Furthermore, LWOB creates graphic novels for countries with low literacy rates, on important topics—such as gender rights, human trafficking, inheritance and succession, and HIV/AIDS. Along the same lines, LWOB makes educational coloring books for children, such as one specific to children in Liberia on the dangers of trafficking. Does LWOB work with attorneys of all experience levels? Yes, LWOB takes volunteers of many experience levels. It works with college students, law students, attorneys, and judges. What advice do you have for those who are thinking of doing global volunteering? Just jump right in! If you are interested in pro bono work abroad, contact organizations that do this work and talk to people who have done it before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Sometimes, people think that they can’t make the money or time commitment for a pro bono project. However, it’s not as time-consuming or complicated as you may think. So take the next step and start researching how you can start volunteering. What do volunteers like most about working with LWOB? A lot of people say that volunteering for LWOB was a life-changing event. Volunteers also most frequently comment that the LWOB programs are really well-organized and substantive. They had the chance to really get down to the nitty-gritty when working abroad and to work and build relationships with local lawyers and judges. Are you especially proud of any particular LWOB projects? LWOB has been training on a human trafficking in Liberia since 2007. Liberians have had a human trafficking law in place since 2005, and the first prosecution under the law was not until 2013. This case involved a prosecutor and judge that LWOB trained. After talking to them, they credit the training with helping them understand the law and how to hear and prosecute a trafficking case. That is something I’m so proud of, because it shows the impact you can have in other countries. To learn more, register to attend Pro Bono Without Borders – this Wednesday, January 29.
Fried Frank is a major international law firm, recognized for complex financial transactions, securities enforcement work, and high-stakes litigation across the globe. But its lawyers also focus on serving individuals and organizations at home in their communities. Fried Frank's pro bono practice is broad. Most of Fried Frank's pro bono clients are low income individuals, but some are legal services organizations and other non-profits, as well as small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs. Matters include ADA litigation, landlord/tenant cases, custody and adoption disputes, asylum and deportation cases, and a wide range of other matters. The firm has also prepared amicus briefs on a variety of issues to the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts. More broadly, Fried Frank is a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge. And the firm has established internal policies for advancement and bonus consideration that encourage and reward pro bono service. Earlier this year, more than 32 attorneys in the Washington office were recognized on either the Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll or High Honor Roll for performing 50 or 100 hours of pro bono service in 2012. Fried Frank also received the "40 at 50" award from the Judicial Conference of the DC Circuit because more than 40% of its lawyers performed at least 50 hours of pro bono service during the same year. Fried Frank has worked with a variety of great organizations on pro bono cases, and also has a longstanding relationship with the Washington Council of Lawyers. It has hosted and co-sponsored our events, organized and provided panelists for public-interest career forums and other activities, and has written amicus briefs and published jobs guides on our behalf. Finally, we are greatly for the active participation on our board – over the last two decades – of Fried Frank's Public Service Counsel, Karen Grisez. Don’t miss tonight's 2013 Awards Reception – and if you aren't able to attend, we'll be live-tweeting it at @WashLawyers! Submit Search the Site
by Aleta Sprague “Don’t sit back. Step up, take a case - just do it.” So advised Larry Schneider, when I asked him for a few words of wisdom for new attorneys seeking to get involved with pro bono practice. And he should know. The winner of our first-ever Legacy Award, Larry has made pro bono work a priority throughout his career, providing both direct services to low-income clients and leading the way in crafting policy reforms to improve the nation’s immigration system. Larry’s commitment to pro bono work emerged in law school, during which he represented clients in both civil and criminal matters through the law school’s clinics and spent a summer working at a legal services organization. Upon graduation, he joined Arnold & Porter, inspired in part by the firm’s established commitment to public service; according to longstanding policy, the firm urged each attorney to devote 15% of his or her time to pro bono matters. Larry joined the firm’s Pro Bono Committee early in his career and also took on a series of leadership positions with the Washington Council of Lawyers, including a term as president in 1983–1984. A pivotal moment in Larry’s pro bono career was the passage of the Immigration Control and Reform Act in 1986, while Larry was serving as Chair of the DC Bar Public Service Activities Committee (now the Pro Bono Committee). Larry recognized that many individuals in DC would newly qualify for citizenship under the Act, but that there was insufficient capacity to accommodate all their legal needs. So Larry began organizing a pro bono effort among area law firms, and got Arnold and Porter to partner with Ayuda and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Through this collaboration, volunteer attorneys were able to both serve clients through clinics and identify and address policy issues. Since then, Larry has led Arnold and Porter’s pro bono immigration efforts. One of the most challenging aspects of the work has been coping with deficiencies within the immigration system itself – for example, due to inadequate resources, there are often significant delays in cases being set for hearings. This challenge, however, has also created an opportunity. One of Larry’s most significant projects in recent years involved evaluating the entire U.S. deportation system and providing recommendations for reform. The project, an effort of over fifty Arnold and Porter attorneys, culminated in alengthy report analyzing all aspects of the deportation process and providing sixty policy recommendations for both administrative and legislative action. While Congress has yet to act on the legislative recommendations, a number of administrative changes have been put in place as a result of the report. The policy recommendations themselves, which were endorsed by the ABA, emerged from issues that pro bono attorneys were observing in their cases. The report provided an opportunity to address these issues more systemically. Larry noted that working on pro bono matters as a team helps tremendously in enabling attorneys to balance pro bono work with the rest of their practice – though ultimately, “if you want to do something, you can make time for it.” At Arnold and Porter, for example, two attorneys, along with an associate mentor and a supervising partner, are assigned to each asylum case. This model provides both flexibility and sufficient support to enable new attorneys to feel comfortable getting involved and taking on cases. Larry is an ideal recipient of our inaugural Legacy Award. In addition to his commitment to pro bono work in the DC area, he has been a Washington Council of Lawyers member for over 35 years. Larry served as our president from 1984–85, and has been one of our most trusted advisors, as well as a wonderful mentor to our future leaders. We are pleased to recognize Larry's exceptional contributions to both pro bono work and the Washington Council of Lawyers. Don’t miss our 2013 Awards Reception to learn more about Larry and this year’s other award winners!
by Elise Helgesen Aguilar I was honored to speak with Paul M. Smith, Partner at Jenner & Block LLP, and keynote speaker for our 2013 Awards Ceremony. I asked him to take a look back on his extraordinary career in civil rights and pro bono work. Below are his insights: Lawrence v. Texas Paul has had a remarkable career, from arguing one of the biggest civil rights cases of our time, to receiving numerous professional accolades. He has even served as President of the Washington Council of Lawyers, where he said he was honored to have made so many good friends who continue to “fight the good fight” all across town. When asked to describe his greatest professional accomplishment, Paul said that it was without a doubt arguing and winning the 2003 Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas, because it has had the greatest overall impact. That victory laid the foundation for advancing gay rights and was a necessary predicate for issues like marriage equality. Becoming a lawyer Paul said that his real interest in pursuing a career as a lawyer began in college. That was the era of Watergate, when lawyers became publicly acknowledged for their work in ferreting out corruption and bad dealings. He knew that the law was a profession in which he could make a difference. This eventually led him to the civil rights field as well, where he was inspired by women’s rights, African-American civil rights, and the environmental movement. Career Challenges Paul's greatest challenge has been maintaining a high volume of pro bono work while managing the expectations of working in a law firm. He noted that this requires going above and beyond the expectations of the firm. Judging from Paul's long list of accomplishments, it’s obvious that he has been very successful in overcoming this challenge. Supreme Court I was most excited to hear more from Paul about his experiences arguing before the Supreme Court. He has done so fourteen times. He stated that the first experience was “pretty harrowing,” especially as a thirty-year old. He also said that while he has learned over time how to better prepare, that arguing before the Supreme Court justices never gets any easier; in fact, the Court has become even more aggressive over time toward lawyers. I tried to press Paul on whether he would reveal any particular rituals, superstitions, or lucky articles of clothing that he dons in preparation for the Supreme Court. He said he had none, and that he prepares by memorizing his opening lines so as to not go completely blank when he faces the justices. But it’s clear that he doesn’t need any lucky rabbit’s foot – his hard work and dedication to civil rights and civil liberties are more than enough.
by Sara Safriet Judith Sandalow came to focus on children and the law after being a foster parent of two boys approximately 16 years ago; she later adopted them both. When Judith was approached by Children's Law Center, this experience allowed her to view the world from the perspective of her future clients. Before joining CLC, Judith graduated from Yale Law School and then returned to Washington, DC as a Juvenile Justice Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. After starting a juvenile clinic at DC Law Students in Court, Judith developed a successful criminal-defense practice specializing in representation of juveniles and adults charged with serious crimes. When she joined CLC in 2000, Judith had no previous experience with fundraising, organizational leadership, or recruiting and managing pro-bono attorneys. But her passion – to help the community that she herself was part of – led her to learn these skills. Indeed, her leadership and dedication have helped CLC expand from three people to a staff of over 80. CLC is now the largest nonprofit legal services provider in the District of Columbia. Approximately one-fifth of CLC's 2,000 cases each year are managed by pro-bono attorneys. Judith believes that it is not difficult to engage pro-bono attorneys in the District: many local attorneys have exhibited an extraordinary capacity to give their time, resources, and dedication to important causes. For those interested in or thinking about taking on a pro-bono case, Judith believes that there are many benefits to doing so with CLC: (1) helping the lawyers feel connected to their communities, (2) engaging with a part of the city that one does not often interact with, (3) putting the world in perspective and helping to stop sweating the small stuff in our lives, (4) learning more about a new area of law, and (5) breaking down stereotypes and educating one another – pro bono lawyers have an opportunity to see how smart, tenacious, inventive, and passionate the poorest of the District’s residents can be. We'd also be remiss if we didn't point out that Judith and her colleagues have worked actively with Washington Council of Lawyers. CLC lawyers have served as faculty at our litigation skills trainings, and CLC's current and former pro bono directors are members of our board. Last but not least, Judith has donated her time to the our mentor/mentee program.
By Tori Roth Jay Owen has been an attorney in the DOJ Antitrust Division since graduating from George Washington University Law School in 2007. Soon after beginning his practice, he started doing pro bono work for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Each year at the Clinic, Jay conducts four or five intake sessions. Over the years, he has opened about 150 cases. Most of them were open and shut (some even closed the same day), but several have lasted longer. For Jay, the most rewarding part of pro bono work is helping his clients with concrete problems, even if it means removing only one of many stumbling blocks. In other instances, his pro bono work can be tremendously valuable simply because he is there to listen. One of Jay's cases has turned into a standing pro bono client, and Jay is always willing to listen when this client calls with a new issue, as he has about once every six months for the past two years. For anyone interested in pro bono work, the biggest hurdle is the intimidation factor – the fear of doing something wrong. But Jay advises that many pro bono clients have no one else to turn to, and they appreciate any assistance, even if it's not perfect. And as Jay has demonstrated, pro bono work allows lawyers to assist not only an individual, but also an entire community. One final note: Jay became interested in working with the homeless during law school, when he started volunteering with Gifts for the Homeless, a non-profit staffed by volunteers from the Washington, DC legal community, and that serves the local homeless population. Jay now serves on its board and encourages everyone to participate in their annual clothing drive, which will take place Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8.
by Cheryl Polydor "I felt beaten down." "I felt humiliated." "I felt like my entire life was spent filling out forms and standing on lines." "I felt powerless." That's a sampling of the comments made by this year's Poverty Simulation participants, after spending a morning enacting the role of a person living in poverty in the United States. The three-hour interactive program, originally developed by the Missouri Community Action Association, gave participants a taste of the day-to-day reality of dealing with landlords, employers, store owners, social workers and legal aid lawyers who held the participants' fate in their hands. The program was facilitated by attorney and social justice activist Tiela Chalmers. A group of about 50 lawyers and students were on hand to play the roles of low-income working families, undocumented individuals. senior citizens, single parents, and others living in poverty – as well as the representatives of a system that often felt arbitrary, oppressive, and just plain broken. Transportation passes were required to go everywhere – even to the office where the transportation passes were distributed; if you ran out of passes for the month, you were out of luck, even if you needed one to visit the doctor, the legal aid bureau, or the unemployment office. Landlords and bankers gave incorrect or incomplete information to struggling families who might have avoided eviction and remained in their homes if they'd been fairly informed of their options. The police seemed to be unfairly targeting people in the community, while being slow to provide help when it was actually needed. Participants were visibly moved by the program, and some said they were inspired to work on ways to change the way the system works – or doesn't work – for people and communities living in poverty. Chalmers encouraged us to continue to see beyond the statistics and reports, and to remember both the tangible and the emotional cost to individuals living in poverty, whose numbers may at some time have included some of us sitting in that room. It was a challenging, rewarding event – and we can't wait to do it again next year.
By Cheryl Polydor "You never really understand a person until you look at things from his point of view … Until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it." Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. Activist and attorney Tiela Chalmers wants you to take a walk inside the skin (or the shoes) of a person living in poverty today in the United States. With an impressive background in providing legal services for the poor, Chalmers now travels around the country leading audiences in the Poverty Simulation, a three-hour interactive presentation developed by the Missouri Community Action Network. Chalmers has customized the event for legal and medical professionals. The Poverty Simulation gives participants a deep, visceral understanding of the day-to-day experiences of a person living in poverty. The difficulties and frustrations in their dealings with agency officials, store owners, landlords, the police, and others are vividly and realistically portrayed. As a result, Chalmers says, even experienced professionals who work with the poor find the Poverty Simulation to be a real eye-opener. Many of us may be aware, on an abstract level, that to be poor is typically to endure substandard housing, education and health care, and to lack economic opportunity and access to justice. But how many of us really can imagine what it’s like to try to nourish our family with food stamps, to work two low-paying jobs to try to keep a roof over our family’s head, or to help our children with their homework when we come home thoroughly exhausted at the end of a 16-hour workday? The Poverty Simulation can’t quite bridge the gap. Chalmers promises, however, a moving experience that will forever change the way you view and interact with people living in poverty. We hope you’ll join us on Wednesday.
I recently had a chance to talk to our board member Paul Lee about the new season of the Best Practices in Pro Bono Program. This year’s four-part series will focus on Client-Centered Collaboration. (By the way, the first session is just around the corner, on November 6, 2013 from 8:30 to 10:00 am at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which is generously hosting the program for the second year.) Paul brought me up to speed on how Best Practices got started and some exciting new developments for next year. The start of a beautiful friendship Paul explained that we launched the Best Practices program last year to bring together local legal services providers and law firms to explore how to develop and strengthen pro bono collaborations. Both groups are deeply committed to providing excellent pro bono services, but they rarely had the chance to sit down together and talk candidly about their shared goals. As a result, the theme of the inaugural Best Practices program was Building Effective Pro Bono Relationships, with four sessions examining the continuum of pro bono services from start to finish. The sessions highlighted how to develop strong pro bono partnerships, training and preparing volunteer attorneys, connecting clients to pro bono representation, providing mentoring and supervision once a matter is placed, setting boundaries with clients, closing out matters, and keeping the collaboration going. The Best Practices program also looked at non-traditional models of pro bono service and focused on collaborating for impact. Participants in last year’s program came from a wide range of local legal services providers and law firms, ranging from very small to quite large, and including organizations with long-established pro bono programs and groups considering new or expanded pro bono programs. New year, new theme In its second year, the Best Practices program has a new theme: Client-Centered Collaboration. Plus, the program will now feature opportunities for informal (and low-key) networking before each sessions begins. The first session—Who is Our Client?—will take a close look at how poverty impacts the legal issues many pro bono clients face. Poverty is an enormous issue in the DC area, and a large percentage of clients served through pro bono efforts are low-income or otherwise struggling financially. This session will examine the interaction of poverty and legal issues and assess how to prepare volunteer attorneys to navigate these issues. The second session—Holistic Support for Our Client— is a counterpart to the first session, with a focus on clients’ non-legal problems. Holistic Support will address questions such as: What do we do to address clients’ non-legal issues? Is that the role of pro bono? How can we take a holistic approach by connecting clients with resources and assistance for non-legal problems? The third session—My Client, the Organization—expands on the client-centered theme to explore pro bono services for organizational clients. Many law firms are particularly well-situated to provide pro bono services to organizations given expertise in corporate structures, tax, and other relevant areas. This session will tackle how law firms can target pro bono work to serve organizational clients—and how legal services providers can take advantage of law firms’ expertise in serving organizational clients. The final session—How Well Are We Serving Our Clients?—will focus on evaluating pro bono efforts from a client-centered perspective. The discussion will examine questions such as: How well are we serving our clients? How should we evaluate our work? When we finish a matter, how do we assess our work and identify areas of success and need for improvement? The most important meal of the day Best Practices is unique for its breakfast hour meeting time. I had to ask Paul about the breakfast offerings, which I’ve heard are quite the draw. Paul noted that donuts are especially popular, but he gives all the credit to our Executive Director, Nancy Lopez, who brings the food, and Fried Frank, which provides excellent coffee.
By Cheryl Polydor According to the latest figures published by the US Census Bureau, approximately 46.2 million Americans live in poverty - that's 15 percent of the population. The numbers are worse for our children: 22 per cent of all American children live in households with incomes below the official poverty line. African American and Latino children are hit the hardest: 42.5 percent of African American children, and 37.1 percent of Latino children are living in poverty. Poverty - and the tools to effectively represent people living in poverty - was the focus of the Poverty Law Conference last weekend at American University's Washington College of Law. Organizers Ezra Rosser, professor at the Washington College of Law, and Marie Fallinger, professor at Hamline School of Law, were joined by a group of scholars and activists who discussed the legal policy strategies to help poor people achieve economic justice. Almost 200 people attended. The conference featured two powerhouse presentations, one by a lawyer and one by a sociologist. The opening speaker was lawyer and activist Peter Edelman, one of the foremost experts on poverty in the United States. Edelman currently teaches at Georgetown Law and serves as faculty director of Georgetown's Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy. Early in his career, Edelman served as a legislative aide to Senator Robert Kennedy. Edelman drew on his forty-plus years of activism and public service to present a thoughtful analysis of poverty and its causes. Among them: the prevalence of low-wage jobs, the growth of single-parent households, the shrinking safety net, and persistent structural discrimination based on race and gender. The solution? Jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage. Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson was the keynote speaker at Friday's lunchtime plenary session. A former MacArthur Fellow, Wilson is currently one of only twenty University Professors, the highest distinction for Harvard faculty members. Wilson described the historical and structural factors behind the current poverty statistics. He pointed to the historic "clustering" of black and Latino men in disappearing manufacturing jobs and low-paying service jobs. He identified the institutional failures of urban schools and community colleges, which do not effectively prepare minority students for gainful employment in the new economy. And he explained the "neighborhood effect": poor urban neighborhoods increasingly offer few job opportunities and lack basic services and amenities, such as banks, retail establishments, and quality transit. Wilson, like fellow activist and scholar Edelman, believes that the way to win the fight against poverty is a comprehensive and sustained strategy of job creation. Washington, are you listening?
by Laura Buchs DC Pro Bono Week wrapped up on Saturday with a Forum on Potential Immigration Reform and Stopping Notario Fraud, led by the DC Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). About thirty law students attending the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair joined area immigration attorneys for an informal meeting before the panel presentation. The forum provided law students with a comprehensive overview of how immigration reform could affect the practice area and how to advise clients to prepare for any changes. In particular, speakers discussed the ever-growing harm caused to immigrants by notario fraud – that is, fraudulent immigration consultants (notarios), who “capitalize on immigrants’ vulnerability and ignorance of the U.S. legal system to offer substandard, false, or nonexistent immigration services.” Ayuda, with the help of the DC Bar, has launched Project END (Eradicating Notario Deceit/Eliminando Notarios Deshonestos), a direct legal services project aimed at providing remedy for the harm caused by these fraudulent consultants. Attorneys with clients who have experienced notario fraud, who have any questions, or who would like to refer a case to Project End are encouraged to contact Ayuda attorney Cori Alonso-Yoder law clerk Anne Schaufele.
By Wing Li Equal Justice Works, an organization dedicated to mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice, will host its Annual Awards Dinner this evening at the Renaissance Washington. The Scales of Justice Award recognizes those who have promoted equality, justice, diversity, public and pro bono service and serve as an inspiration to students and the legal profession. This year, Equal Justice Works will be honoring D. Cameron Findlay, who has had an exemplary career in both the private and public sectors. A strong proponent of public service, Findlay has served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Chief of Staff, and as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, and clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. In the private sector, Findlay has continued to serve those in need, and paved a path for others in the private sector to follow his lead by developing, encouraging and supporting pro bono service. Currently, he is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Archer Daniels Midland Company. He previously served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Medtronic, the world’s largest medical device manufacturer. Findlay launched Medtronic Legal Department’s first pro bono program. As part of the program, Medtronic attorneys have worked on pro bono projects at the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, provided mediation for unrepresented parties, and conducted business advice clinics for startups in remote regions of the state. Under Findlay's leadership, Medtronic joined forces with other in-house counsel of Minnesota-based corporations in an effort to amend the Minnesota pro bono practice rules to increase the number of lawyers providing pro bon assistance to those in need. Thanks to Findlay’s leadership, Medtronic co-sponsored two 2012 Equal Justice Works Fellows: Nicole Witnauer, co-sponsored with Greenberg Traurig, works at Catholic Charities in Atlanta to provide direct representation to immigrant women seeking protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); and Karla Altmayer, co-sponsored with Kirkland & Ellis, works at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago to provide comprehensive legal representation, outreach, education, and advocacy to female farm workers who are victims of employment-based sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Through both his public service and private sector initiatives, Findlay epitomizes the mission of Equal Justice Works by demonstrating that everyone – whether in public service or the private sector – has a responsibility to help create a just society and mobilize the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.
By Anne King This evening, October 22, 2013, the DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s Community Economic Development Project will host aSmall Business Brief Advice Legal Clinic as part of Pro Bono Week. The Small Business Clinic is held regularly throughout the year (in every month except August). But it’s a particularly good fit with Pro Bono week because it offers a unique volunteer opportunity for local attorneys: advising community entrepreneurs on legal questions that come up when starting or running a small business. Tuesday’s clinic will take place at the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Small Business Resource Center. To reach entrepreneurs across the city, the clinic rotates to different locations each month, holds Saturday sessions a few times a year, and also offers occasional Spanish-language clinics. A valuable service for community-based entrepreneurs Running a small business—or launching one—can be complicated. The clinic offers an invaluable resource for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs: free legal advice. As Darryl Maxwell of the DC Bar Pro Bono Programexplains, entrepreneurs come to the clinic with a wide range of questions, including queries about business formation or transitioning from a sole proprietorship, requests for help with real estate contracts and leases, licensing and patent issues, requests for advice on classifying employees and independent contractors, and many more. But the most common question is: “I want to start a business. What should I do next?” Clinic volunteers provide an important service in discussing the pros and cons of various entity formations, dispelling myths about launching a business, and pointing entrepreneurs in the direction of useful resources. The clinic encourages entrepreneurs to visit any time they need assistance—and there are many repeat visitors. For example, a clinic visitor might receive assistance with an operating agreement one month, and then the following month she might need help drafting a lease after finding the perfect space. A rewarding experience for attorney volunteers Clinic volunteers have an opportunity to make a real impact on local economic development by assisting small business owners and entrepreneurs. Volunteer attorneys act as advisors, counselors, and sounding boards, and they enjoy having the chance to discuss exciting new business ideas with local community members. The clinic draws a diverse group of attorney volunteers, ranging from first-year law firm associates to retired attorneys, from government lawyers to solo practitioners, and many more. Several volunteers make the clinic a regular part of their pro bono work, and some attend almost every month. The clinic’s limited scope—volunteers provide brief advice, and aren’t required to commit to ongoing representation—means participating is manageable for attorneys with busy schedules. Although many volunteers have expertise in relevant areas of the law, such as intellectual property, real estate, and employment law, attorney volunteers need not have any specific background in order to participate. The DC Bar Pro Bono Program offers trainings two times a year and also provides a manual to support attorney volunteers. If you are a local entrepreneur interested in attending a Small Business Brief Advice Clinic, or an attorney interested in volunteering, you can find out more about the Community Economic Development Project at the DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s website!
By Cheryl Polydor Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29,2005, devastating the city and its residents. Almost 800,000 thousand people were displaced or made homeless overnight, and many were killed. The cost to the people of New Orleans and its economy was incalculable. Ezra Rosser, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, was teaching in New Orleans at the time of Katrina. He was fortunate to escape the worst effects of the storm – but it did have a unique impact on the trajectory of his career. After the storm hit, Rosser was asked to teach a colleague's classes in Poverty Law – so that his colleague could devote his time to advising and representing the hundreds of people arriving daily to seek assistance from the school's legal clinic. Now a professor at Washington College of Law, Rosser continues to teach Poverty Law, and is co-coordinator of the 2013 Poverty Law Conference: Cases, Teaching and Scholarship taking place this Friday and Saturday. He is organizing the conference with Marie Fallinger, a professor at Hamline School of Law. Both Rosser and Fallinger have made substantial contributions to the expanding scholarship on poverty law. What is poverty law? Rosser explains that it's a multi-disciplinary field, addressing legal issues faced by poor people in their daily lives. It includes, among others, aspects of housing law, health care law, education law, public benefits law, employment law, and immigration law. In addition to providing a forum for the cross-pollination of ideas by poverty law scholars, practitioners, and teachers, the Poverty Conference is intended to produce a book, for publication, showcasing the most significant poverty law cases and developments. There currently is a lack such works, and recent economic developments – both in the US throughout the world – have created a growing need for a comprehensive treatise. A highlight of the Conference is the featured speaker for the lunchtime Plenary Session on Friday: Harvard professor William Julius Wilson, one of the nation's most renowned scholars exploring the intersection of race and poverty.
Founded in 1996, Children’s Law Center is the largest legal services organization in Washington, DC and the only to focus on children. Its 80-person staff, together with hundreds of pro bono partners, helps more than 2,000 children and caregivers every year. This experience allows CLC to advocate for system-wide changes that improve the lives of all the District's children. CLC focuses on the whole family, not just the legal problem presented. They do this by creating a cross-disciplinary team of professionals made up of lawyers, doctors, educators, and social workers. During Pro Bono Week, CLC will showcase their nationally recognized medical-legal partnership program (known as Healthy Together) with a visit to their offices at one of the Children’s National Medical Center’s Children’s Health Centers. Since 2002, CLC has maintained law offices just steps from the exam rooms at various Children’s Health Centers throughout the District. The partnership between CLC and the Children’s National Medical Center is one of the oldest medical-legal partnerships in the country. A medical-legal partnership is a healthcare delivery model that expands the concept of medical care for low-income families to include legal representation. The program is based on prevention, removing non-medical barriers to children’s and families’ health and wellbeing, and addressing adverse social conditions that negatively impact the health of DC’s low-income families. Under this model, doctors who suspect that a medical condition may have underlying legal issues can immediately connect a family with a CLC attorney. Together, they find legal remedies to health problems that can get in the way of a child’s success. CLC attorneys have forced insurance companies to pay for equipment such as wheelchairs for children who need them to go to school; filed suit against landlords to clean up apartments that were infested with rodents and mold that aggravated medical conditions such as asthma and allergies; and offered training to doctors to help them to ask the right questions so that they can identify obstacles that a legal action could overcome. Tracy Goodman, the Director of Healthy Together and the first CLC attorney to participate in the medical-legal partnership, said the medical-legal partnership program has had great support from the start: “We had incredible support and buy-in at the clinic level from day one as the pediatricians and other health care staff welcomed our presence once they learned about the model.” The program has since expanded to a variety of Children’s National Medical Center clinics and programs, including Generations, four Children Health Center Locations, as well as Mary’s Center. CLC’s Healthy Together has eight lawyers and two investigators. Over 100 pro bono attorneys volunteer their time and talent each year to help CLC help as many children as possible. CLC’s current goal is to double the number of children served by the Healthy Together program over the next five years. One in three children in the District of Columbia lives in poverty, leaving them vulnerable to overwhelming health problems. For every child seen in this program, there are dozens more in need. There are clinic waiting rooms full of children who need the legal expertise that CLC and pro bono attorneys provide. Pro bono attorneys will play an important role in expanding this important program. Healthy Together refers pro bono cases in special education and housing conditions to over a hundred pro bono attorneys throughout the District, but there are always more cases in need of placement for pro bono attorneys to get involved. The Pro Bono Week visit will take place on Thursday, October 24th from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Children’s National Medical Center’s Children’s Health Center in Adams Morgan. For more information on becoming a CLC Pro Bono Attorney, check out their website.
By Jessica Stringer When brainstorming for Pro Bono Week festivities, Courtney Weiner envisioned kicking off the week with a formal event targeted at young attorneys with a reasonable ticket price. Inspiration for the name of the event came from theGo Casual for Justice, a successful fundraiser in its fifth year. Katia Garrett, the DC Bar Foundation’s Executive Director and one of our Honorary board members, encouraged Courtney to follow up on her idea and take the lead in executing the event. This will be the first major fundraising event spearheaded by the DC Bar Foundation Young Lawyers Network since its inception, guided by Courtney as the event chair. The DCBF Young Lawyers Network provides a venue for young lawyers to support access to justice in the District. In addition to hosting events to raise money and awareness for the Foundation’s work, the Young Lawyers Network Leadership Council provides opportunities responsive to the needs of the newest members of the District’s legal community. The proceeds of this event will support the DC Bar Foundation’s mission to fund, support, and improve legal representation of the poor, vulnerable, and otherwise disadvantaged in the District of Columbia. The Foundation provides grants to non-profit civil legal services providers, provides public interest training and technical assistance, and assists poverty attorneys with student loan repayment. One of the programs benefiting from the proceeds raised through the Gala is the DC Poverty Lawyer Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). This program covers up to $1,000 of student loan payments each month for attorneys in careers that assist underserved communities in the District. The typical attorney that receives assistance from the program is four years out of law school, makes $49,000 a year, and pays 20% of their pretax salary on $130,000 student loan debt. By improving the ability of young, motivated attorneys to stay in careers that they find fulfilling, the DC Poverty Lawyer LRAP has a major impact on the quality and consistency of local legal services for the poor. For those now inspired to spend a little more than the reasonably priced ticket, the live and silent auction offer fantastic finds. Enjoy lunch with Judy Smith, the crisis management expert that inspired the hit drama series Scandal. Courtney is a huge Springsteen fan, so she is excited to see his platinum record “Born in the USA” go up for bid. Katia and Courtney also emphasized the crucial role of the Public Welfare Foundation in making the Gala a success, through their generous contribution supporting the upfront costs of the event. Thank you, Public Welfare Foundation, and all of the sponsors and contributors to the event! A final note on fashion: Courtney will be wearing Badgley Mischka or Nicole Miller, and I have already settled on my classic black Nicole Miller, knee length with ruching along the sides. Black tie dress is optional, so don’t let the lack of a tuxedo or designer dress deter you. You won’t want to miss this inaugural formal event kicking off DC Pro Bono week! Tickets are, alas, sold out for the Go Formal for Justice Gala, which will take place at 8 PM on Saturday October 19th, at Mayer Brown, 1999 K Street NW.
Six fine folks joined our Board of Directors this fall, so allow us to introduce them: Nancy Drane (@Ndrane) is Pro Bono Director of the Children's Law Center. She first joined Children's Law Center as a staff attorney in 2003 and has also served as its Training Director. Nancy was co-chair of the DC Bar Family Law Section, and is an Adjunct Professor at American University's Washington College of Law. Before attending law school, Nancy taught junior high in Chicago. Anne King (@annewarrenking) is currently at Georgetown Law's Institute for Public Representation, where she works with clinic students on civil rights cases and other public interest litigation. Anne is a DC native, and her professional background includes employment discrimination litigation, policy advocacy, and teaching elementary school. Robin Murphy practiced in non-profit legal advocacy programs throughout the country before settling with her family in the DC area and joining the Legal Aid Society of DC. Three years ago, Robin entered federal government service to work in civil rights. Robin's two children are now in college and she is enjoying having more time to participate in WCL. Amy Senier is a Supervising Attorney/Teaching Fellow in the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center, where she supervises test cases and fact-finding missions aimed at redressing discrimination against women in Africa. Amy was previously an associate at Foley Hoag LLP. Amy is an enthusiastic cyclist; she spends her non-working hours exploring DC on two wheels – day or night, in groups big or small. David Steib is Assistant Director for the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law (the other WCL!). David previously worked as a housing attorney at Legal Aid Society of DC; for the past five years, he has been an active member of the DC Language Access Coalition. During the first year of Capital Bikeshare's existence, David was one of the top five riders (measured by the number of trips taken). Daria Zane is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel for the DC Court of Appeals. Previously, Daria was a Special Master for the Court of Federal Claims, an Assistant US Attorney in DC, and a trial attorney in the DOJ Environment and Natural Resources Division. Not to be outdone by the other athletic members of our board, Daria is an avid soccer player. Please join us in welcoming our new board members. We hope get a chance to meet them soon!
Please welcome our officers for the 2013–2014 lawyering year. Betsy Howe (President) is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, where she focuses on financial enforcement matters and white collar litigation. Betsy also has an active pro bono practice, including in the areas of immigration, domestic violence, and criminal appeals. Betsy joined the Board in 2011 and last year served as our Treasurer. Jim Rubin (VP) is counsel to the firm Dentons, where he focuses on environmental and natural resource issues. Jim spent 15 years at DOJ's environmental division and a year at the White House, working on climate issues. Jim has also had leadership roles in the ABA and DC Bar, but mainly is bossed around at home by his two teenage boys. Patty Stasco (Treasurer) practiced for five years at Arnold & Porter LLP, especially enjoying her pro bono immigration work. Yearning to get back to full-time public interest work she now works as an attorney for the federal government. On her down time you'll likely find her woodworking, shopping at the farmer's market, or watching school buses go by with her 21-month old son excitedly shouting, "Bus! Bus!" Kelly Voss (Secretary) is pro bono counsel at Covington & Burling LLP. Before joining Covington, Kelly was a staff attorney at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, where she provided direct legal services to clients in a broad spectrum of matters, including landlord-tenant, fair housing, consumer, bankruptcy, and education. If she were not a lawyer, Kelly would love to be a beekeeper. Greg Lipper (Communications Director) is Senior Litigation Counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Before that, he did trial and appellate litigation for six years at Covington & Burling. Greg tweets compulsively (at@theglipper) and hopes to one day become a bobblehead doll. As you can see below, our officers are already conspiring to bring you fantastic events and programs. Stay tuned!
Our next Summer Intern Brown Bag Lunch, coming up on July 17, will focus on fair and affordable housing in Washington, DC. In advance of the event, Elise Helgesen Aguilar got in touch with speakers Julie Becker and Jenny Reed. They were kind enough to discuss their practice areas and passion for what they do—and even shared their secret desires for a particular super power. Beginnings Ms. Becker joined the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia in 2000, after graduating from Yale Law School and clerking for Sonia Sotomayor, at the time a judge on the Second Circuit. Ms. Becker always knew that she wanted to be a public-interest lawyer, but did not know she would specialize in fair housing. Once she became a Skadden Fellow at Legal Aid, she learned more about the field of affordable housing and become passionate about the issue. She has worked at Legal Aid ever since, and she’s now a supervising attorney. Ms. Reed grew up in Maine. Her mother directed the Maine Human Rights Commission; her father was, and still is, a state representative. Issues of fairness, equality, and local government were always discussed in her house. Those discussions prompted her interest in state and local issues and how local policy could help—or, alas, sometimes hinder—opportunities for low-income residents. Later, while in graduate school, she became interested in statistics and tax policy. When she discovered DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI) she knew it would be a great fit; the organization allows her to use data and research to drive policy solutions to the problems facing low- and moderate-income residents in DC. A Day in the Life Both women admit that each day is diverse and challenging. For Ms. Becker, this can mean going to court in the morning and serving as attorney for the day, or supervising other attorneys, and then meeting with new clients, conducting intake, writing motions and pleadings, attending coalition meetings, and coordinating with members from the housing authority. Ms. Reed says that she spends about half her time researching and crunching numbers, about one-fourth of her time talking with policymakers and DC government staff, and the remaining fourth of her time out in the community, giving presentations or attending meetings. It’s All Worth It Ms. Becker finds it most rewarding to work with her clients, and to help individual people solve individual problems. She also enjoys the mix of working directly with clients and reforming the law in ways to help improve housing policy throughout the city. Ms. Reed enjoys working on state and local issues because there she can really see the results of her work, and the impact she can have on local policy. DCFPI gives her the opportunity to work closely with the DC government and to be involved from start to finish in the process of identifying solutions to problems faced by DC’s low-income residents. Words of Wisdom For law students interested in pursuing this field of law, Ms. Becker advises that they should make the most of their summer internships, to really figure out what they like and dislike, and to make as many contacts with lawyers in the housing area as possible. Ms. Reed advises interested students to practice their ability to communicate complex problems in a manner that policymakers can understand. She believes that it’s critical to explain housing issues clearly and concisely. Superwomen Though each woman has the power to create real and lasting change in DC housing policy, both admit that their lives would be made easier if they had one superpower: to teleport or apparate from one place to the next. Despite their busy schedules, there would be no stopping them—if only they could avoid the metro.
By Aleta Sprague Today we’ll be holding our 2013 Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum. At the Summer Forum, law students and young lawyers will hear from attorneys in a range of public interest fields, with panels ranging from criminal law to family law to international human rights. We've already taken a look at what attendees can hope to learn in the criminal law, civil rights, and transactional pro bono breakout sessions. Last but not least, today we'll offer a quick preview of the family law panel. The field of family law is a growing and evolving rapidly. Since the 1970s, laws governing divorce, child support and child custody have changed significantly, in step with developing social norms. Often, family law attorneys are dealing with issues that are both time-sensitive and highly stressful for all parties involved. Furthermore, the strong need for free or low-cost family law services often greatly outstrips supply, and many family law litigants have no choice but to enter the courtroom without a lawyer. ProBono.Net offers an interactive service that helps unrepresented parties fill out essential court forms; in 2010, family law was the service’s most popular topic, and accounted for two-thirds of documents that visitors completed. Meanwhile, many states’ family law courts have come under increased strain due to the recession and inadequate funding. Clearly, working as a family lawyer, particularly in the public interest, is highly demanding--but it’s also incredibly important work, with a tradeoff of rewards and challenges like any other legal career. To get a better sense of the day-to-day work of a family law attorney, I reached out to Evelyn Becker, who will be moderating the Family Law breakout session. Ms. Becker recently served as the first pro bono director of the Children’s Law Center, and previously worked on a range of pro bono matters as a partner at O’Melveny & Myers. She offers her advice below. Are there any particular courses, law school activities, or summer experiences you would recommend for law students interested in a career in family law? Family lawyers are generally litigators, so trial-oriented courses such as evidence and trial advocacy are important. It's also extremely helpful to spend some time at the Courthouse observing proceedings. An externship or clerkship with a Judge can provide valuable experience. Many law schools offer family law clinics--take advantage of these opportunities. What type of skillset do you think new attorneys need to successfully pursue a family law career? Family law lawyers need to be strong trial lawyers and negotiators. They need to have the patience, drive and flexibility for sometimes extended or unpredictable investigations. They need to work well with and relate to people with a wide variety of backgrounds and personalities. What is your favorite thing about working in this practice area? What are the key challenges? I love that you can make a real difference for people during a critical time in their lives and I enjoy meeting a variety of people. Family law is rarely boring. At the same time, the stakes are high and the emotions can be extremely intense. You will likely find yourself deeply moved by your clients' stories and it can be a challenge to maintain a healthy objectivity. What can Forum attendees hope to learn during your breakout session? They will hear about the different types of family law practice from people who handle family law matters every day. The forum is helpful for people wanting to pursue a legal services career, or who want to have a pro bono practice involving family law. Want to learn more? Follow along on Twitter at #SF2013.
By Aleta Sprague On Thursday we’ll be holding our 2013 Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum. At the Summer Forum, law students and young lawyers will hear from attorneys in a range of public interest fields, with panels ranging from criminal law to family law to international human rights. We're previewing each of the panels. Our third installment looks at pro bono opportunities for those who aren't litigators. (Read our first installment on civil rights/civil liberties practice, and our second installment on criminal defense.) For new attorneys, taking on pro bono cases can be a great way to develop litigation skills while simultaneously filling a serious need for legal services within their community. Yet there are also extensive opportunities for transactional lawyers and other non-litigators to do pro bono work. A 2005 survey by the American Bar Association found that the top three areas of practice for pro bono hours are family law, business law, and consumer law. For example, attorneys can help non-profit organizations draft contracts, secure tax-exempt status, and handle real estate transactions. And skills common to business lawyers such as careful listening, problem solving, and negotiating complex bureaucracies have clear applicability to pro bono work. Yet the ABA survey also found that younger lawyers are far less likely than their older counterparts to engage in pro bono activities. This year’s Transactional and Non-Litigation Pro Bono session is designed to inspire new attorneys to take on this type of work and provide some guidance about the wide range of opportunities available to suit a variety of interests and skills. Susan Hoffman, the Public Service Partner at Crowell & Moring, will serve as moderator, and graciously took the time to answer some of my questions in advance. Below is our Q&A: Are there any particular courses, law school activities, or summer experiences you would recommend for law students interested in a non-litigation public interest career? There are clinics at some law schools that involve non-litigation projects that I would recommend. For example, at one law school, there is a consumer clinic that enlists students to assist in negotiating resolutions for clients. How does a new associate become involved with their firm’s pro bono practice? Are there leadership opportunities for junior attorneys? The best way for a new associate to get involved with the firm’s pro bono practice is to seek out and arrange a meeting with the firm’s pro bono coordinator. If the firm does not have a full-time coordinator, find out which attorney chairs the firm’s pro bono committee and express your interest. Taking the initiative will leave a favorable impression on that coordinator/attorney and get results. What skills and qualities enable you to be successful in your position? I think that creativity, patience as well as a willingness to listen closely to clients about their goals and needs has helped me to be successful in my position. What is your favorite thing about your job? What are the key challenges? I find it rewarding and professionally and personally satisfying to think that the work that I do makes a difference--in some cases for an individual and in others for our community as a whole. The biggest challenge that I face is saying “No”--in turning down projects or individuals seeking help--either because they do not qualify for pro bono services or because I don’t have attorneys with time and expertise to help. What can Forum attendees expect to learn during your breakout session? Attendees will learn about ways in which nonlitigation pro bono work can make a significant difference for others and for the community and how it can be just as personally rewarding as litigation pro bono work. Any other tips for law students interested in this practice area? I would recommend being open to trying new types of cases/projects. You never know when you will hit upon a case or project that inspires you! Want to learn more? Follow along on Twitter at #SF2013.