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Photo: Phillip Dehoux Headshot

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Phillip Dehoux – Helping Clients With Few Legal Resources Find Solutions

Understanding all too well the struggles of people with few resources and language barriers, Phillip Dehoux jumped at the chance to help out in any way he could with Christian Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. “I’ve worked on a few estate planning and probate cases, helped out on an SSDI case, and worked on guardianship matters. It’s been very rewarding work in that I not only feel fulfilled, but I also get to help people who had nowhere else to turn because they couldn’t afford a private attorney.”
Photo: Ehran Bedestani Headshot

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Erhan Bedestani – Law Student Leading By Example

Erhan Bedestani, a law student at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, loves pro bono work because he is motivated to help others and he also learns by doing.  Pro bono provides an opportunity to take the academic material learned in law school and apply it to real legal issues members of our local community are dealing with. Erhan feels strongly about pro bono work and said  “I love that I can help others and at the same time further reinforce my legal education. “
Photo Lauren Taylor Headshot

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Lauren Taylor – Hope and Opportunity Through Expungement

The Rising for Justice Expungement Program is proud to work with many pro bono attorneys who make it possible to expunge hundreds of D.C. records every year. Our Pro Bono Partners, as we refer to them, each become an important figure in our clients’ lives. Pro Bono Partners support and represent clients throughout the expungement process. Lauren Taylor stands out in her commitment and positivity to this work.
Graphic: Failed Stress Test Blog Post

A Failed Stress Test: The Pandemic Exposes the D.C. Government’s Failure to Distribute Unemployment Benefits to People in Need

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many District of Columbia residents to lose their jobs and erased years of employment progress. In February 2020, just before the pandemic began, the District’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 4.9 percent. Two months later, unemployment had more than doubled to 11.1 percent. Some of the people who lost their jobs have since found new jobs, but not nearly enough: As of May 2021, the unemployment rate was still 7.2 percent. Even worse, the District’s government has failed to ensure that people who lose their jobs receive the unemployment benefits to which they are entitled; those failures became especially conspicuous when the federal government expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic. For many eligible people, the resulting loss of unemployment benefits has been devastating. Claimants have relied on unemployment aid to pay for food, rent, and other essentials; without the aid they may be forced to move elsewhere and they may lack secure access to food. The effects were especially severe for racial minorities. Even after the expanded unemployment benefits have expired, the District’s unemployment system remains dire.
Graphic: Jobs Digest

Lead Our Team: Seeking our Next Executive Director

Washington Council of Lawyers is seeking a strong and driven leader to serve as its next Executive Director. The Executive Director’s primary duty is to advance the mission of Washington Council of Lawyers, as reflected in our Mission Statement: We are a voluntary bar association committed to ensuring that our legal system treats everyone fairly, regardless of money, position, or power. Our members represent the legal community’s diversity: They come from law firms, law schools, private and nonprofit organizations, and the government. We promote pro bono and public-interest law—by building partnerships among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; volunteering to provide legal services to those who need them; training and mentoring the next generation of public-interest advocates; and supporting policies that expand access to justice. The Executive Director is our key management leader and reports to the Board of Directors. Specifically, the Executive Director is responsible for leading our organization in: Achieving its mission/furthering its reputation by offering outstanding programs, training sessions, advocacy, mentoring, and community-building opportunities with our working Board Communicating with and supporting our Board of Directors and committees Communicating with our members and external outreach, through inter alia, our website and social media platforms Executing fundraising initiatives Working with Board members on the annual budget and financial reporting Supervising and managing two staff members Engaging in relevant advocacy before the DC government and other authorities, and Helping to ensure legal compliance Qualifications and Desired Experience: JD preferred Two or more years of non-profit management experience Ability to set agendas, advance the organization’s mission, and build a strong team of board and staff members Familiarity with budgeting, strategic planning, and nonprofit management Detail-oriented, well-organized, and able to work independently Strong time and task management skills Strong communications and interpersonal skills A strong commitment to our mission and to professionalism Basic knowledge of, or ability to learn, Microsoft Office including Word and Excel; Google platforms including Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Forms, Google Drive; and WordPress Familiarity with Wild Apricot membership software and WordPress or similar database and website software is a plus Familiarity with social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn and Hootsuite social media software Notes: (1) This job includes occasional transport of supplies and materials to events, etc.; reasonable accommodations will be made if the candidate is unable to perform such functions; (2) This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of key job functions, and job duties may change over time based on organizational needs. Hours and Compensation:  The Executive Director position is part-time, averaging at least 30 hours per week; he/she/they manage their own time and hours with availability generally required during regular business hours. Working from home and telecommuting is part of how we work. Occasional evening work is required to assist with evening programs.  We are willing to explore moving to a full-time position at a later date. The salary range for this position, on a part-time basis, is $60,000 to $75,000. A broader package of benefits is currently being considered for this position. Washington Council of Lawyers is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability status, or any applicable characteristics protected by law. How to Apply:  Interested persons are encouraged to apply immediately and should submit a letter of interest and resume in one PDF document to jobs@wclawyers.org, with “[Full Name] – Executive Director” as the subject of the email. Applications will be reviewed as they are submitted. The position remains open until filled.

Photo: Mentoring Happy Hour Group Photo

Advance Your Career Through Mentoring

Washington Council of Lawyers is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and throughout these celebrations, we've reminisced about our many success stories. The Mentoring Program is one of these successes. Throughout the years, the Mentoring Program has fostered one-on-one mentoring relationships, hosted various networking events and training sessions, and brought together our public-interest community in a unique way. The Mentoring Program positively impacts many members' experience with Washington Council of Lawyers, and both mentors and mentees love remembering the programs’ past and looking forward to the program’s future. Multiple leaders of the program throughout the years shared some of their fondest memories of this incredible program.
You Have A Place Here

You Have A Place Here

All practicing lawyers in Washington, DC share an ethical commitment to offer free or reduced-fee legal services to the many people in our community who are denied justice or otherwise marginalized by the inability to afford good counsel. This service commitment applies across all practice areas and includes lawyers in private practice, in government, in non-profits, in academia, in associations, and those working for our city’s many strong legal services providers. In this sense, Washington Council of Lawyers has a much broader constituency than other voluntary bar associations. So, whether you practice corporate law or criminal law, trade law or family law, whether you regularly litigate in DC courts or have never seen the inside of a courtroom, and whether you are a solo practitioner or work for an organization with hundreds of employees, you have a professional home with us.
Graphic: New Honorary Board Members Photo Collage

Meet Our New Honorary Board Members

We are thrilled to welcome three new members to our Honorary Board. Each of these prominent advocates has a deep commitment to pro bono service and public-interest law. We're excited to be able to learn from their experiences.
Graphic: Medal Award

Nominations now open for our 2021 Legal Services and Government Pro Bono Awards!

We are now accepting nominations for our 2021 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 government pro bono lawyers. Our 2021 Awards Ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 2. 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 are due by 5 pm ET on Monday, October 4, 2021. 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 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: 2020 Allison Miles-Lee, Bread for the City 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: 2020: Jo Bahn, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation 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. Nomination materials should be submitted to info@wclaywers.org. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Lopez at 202.942.5063. Deadline  ​ All nominations must be received by 5:00 pm ET on Monday, October 4. Learn more about the Awards Ceremony and past award winners.

Photo: Fellowships 101 Panelists Collage

2021 Fellowships 101 Resources

Annually, Washington Council of Lawyers hosts Fellowships 101, where law students and aspiring public-interest lawyers learn about the fellowship process and receive concrete tips for creating a successful fellowship application. This year’s event was virtual, but our expert panelists made the experience interactive and helpful. This summary also includes additional resources and important dates and links.
Graphic: 50th Anniversary Reunion

50th Anniversary Celebration

50 years ago -- Washington Council of Lawyers was founded to reform the DC Bar and fight for social justice. Today -- Washington Council of Lawyers is a vibrant voice for the DC pro bono and public-interest community, fighting for access to justice, with more than 70 programs during the past year. Washington Council of Lawyers has a rich history of service and advocacy, and last week we were thrilled to host our founders, past presidents, long-time members, community partners, and new friends for our 50th Anniversary Reunion.
Graphic: Intern Happy Hour Group Shot

Tips for a Successful Remote Summer Experience

Summer associates and summer interns from across the country joined our Intern Happy Hour last week for a discussion of what to expect from their summer experience. Our expert panel of supervisors from the government, law firms, and legal service providers gave tips and advice on how to make a remote internship successful.
Graphic: Criminal Law & Death Penalty Panel

Summer Forum 2021: Criminal Law & Death Penalty Pro Bono Opportunities

The final session of our Summer Forum 2021 was the Criminal Law and Death Penalty Panel. This topic is of utmost importance, especially after the racial reconning this year, because of the unfortunate reality that communities of color are disproportionally affected by the criminal justice system. The panel discussed the impactful work they do and the ways that the broader legal community can help be a part of addressing these injustices within our society.
Graphic: Civil Rights Civil Liberties Panel

Summer Forum 2021: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Lawyers Are At The Forefront of Change

The final day of our Summer Forum 2021 began with a panel on civil rights and civil liberties which highlighted how this past year has increased awareness of the disparities in our nation between people groups. Because of these disparities, there is a great need for lawyers to take part in pro bono civil rights and civil liberties work which promotes equal rights and justice for all people.
Graphic: Immigration Panel

Summer Forum 2021: Advocate for Immigrants Through Pro Bono

On June 10, we convened the Immigration and Human Rights Panel for our Summer Forum 2021. This panel focused on the multitude of ways the legal community can support immigrants through pro bono representation. Each of the panelists works in immigration law and was able to provide insights into their work in addition to shedding light on the many pro bono opportunities available for lawyers and law students in immigration in the DC area and throughout the nation.
Graphic: Poverty Law Panel

Summer Forum 2021: Serve Those Living in Poverty Through Pro Bono

Our second June 10th panel of the Summer Forum highlighted the continuing legal needs of those living at or below the federal poverty level, especially after the pandemic’s disruption of the economy and effect on individual lives. The most prevalent issues are debt collection, family matters, and landlord-tenant disputes among a host of others. Our panel discussed pro bono opportunities in these areas and how lawyers in the DC area and across the nation can also get involved.
Photo: Amelia Patrick Headshot

Meet Our 2021 Summer Intern

Welcome Amelia Patrick, our 2021 Summer Intern. Amelia is a rising senior at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia with a double major in Economics/International Affairs and a minor in Religion and Public Diplomacy. We are excited to have her contributing to our mission.
Graphic: 21 SF Transactional Panelists

2021 Summer Forum: Myriad of Opportunities for Transactional Pro Bono

The first practice-area panel discussion of the 2021 Summer Forum was held on Thursday, June 3, and the conversation focused on opportunities for pro bono work outside the courtroom. Not all pro bono work involves litigation. There are many opportunities for public-interest careers and pro bono opportunities in areas such as advocacy, transactional work, legal guidance, and advising that can make a powerful impact.
Graphic: 2021 Summer Forum Keynote Speakers

2021 Summer Forum Keynote with The Honorable Eric Holder

Washington Council of Lawyer’s Annual Summer Forum 2021 began on June 3rd with an enlightening conversation on racial equity and public justice provided by keynote speaker Eric Holder. Eric Holder is a former U.S. Attorney General and self-described, life-long public interest lawyer. For this forum, Mr. Holder was in conversation with Nicole Austin-Hillery, U.S. Program Executive Director for Human Rights Watch and Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member. Throughout this first session of the Summer Forum, a multitude of topics were highlighted, all with the connecting message that lawyers need to utilize their “unique capabilities and responsibilities” for public justice.
Graphic: Civil Rights And Criminal Law Panels

2021 Summer Forum Preview: Criminal Law & Death Penalty

Over-policing, inequitable applications of the law, excessively harsh punishments, mass incarceration, and racial injustice are just some of the issues facing criminal defense and death penalty lawyers. The criminal law system disproportionally impacts communities of color and badly needed reform is one step toward a just and equitable society. The scope of the problem requires creative and innovative approaches and increased pro bono representation must be part of the solution. Join us for our final virtual panel, Criminal Law & the Death Penalty, on Thursday, June 17 at 1:15 pm ET to learn how you can get involved.
Graphic: Civil Rights And Criminal Law Panels

2021 Summer Forum Preview: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

At our 2021 Summer Forum, the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel will explore the critical role lawyers play in protecting individuals’ fundamental rights. Almost daily, there is news of another example of rights violations and ways protections are eroding. Demands to advance racial justice, protect voters’ rights for future elections, safeguard unemployment, and reverse the tide of racial disparity in education are rising. How lawyers can respond to these issues and more will be discussed at the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel on Tuesday, June 17, from 12:00-1:15 pm ET.
Graphic: Poverty Law & Immigration & Human Rights Panels

2021 Summer Forum Preview: Immigration & Human Rights Panel

The 2021 annual Summer Forum Human Rights & Immigration panel features a discussion of the challenges facing human rights and immigration practitioners during the Covid-19 pandemic in DC and across the country. Under normal circumstances, there are often significant barriers for immigration and human rights practitioners to navigate when their clients are detained. As in many areas of legal practice, the pandemic has created new hurdles and exacerbated those that already exist for practitioners in these fields. These practical challenges, language barriers, and the vulnerability of immigrants and other marginalized populations make pro bono representation vital in these cases. This panel presents an opportunity for law students, recent graduates, and new lawyers to learn how to advocate for immigrants across diverse practice areas. It also provides a look at some of the avenues for pro bono and volunteer work as well as a view of the practical and legal issues that attorneys and clients in this area face.
Graphic: Poverty Law & Immigration & Human Rights Panels

2021 Summer Forum Preview: Poverty Law Panel

Over the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated socio-economic, health, racial, and gender inequalities in America. It has threatened working and middle-class communities with financial instability and wreaked havoc on families and individuals living in poverty. In the current economic climate, the legal and policy issues discussed at Washington Council of Lawyer's annual Summer Forum's Poverty Law Panel take on increased significance. Join us on Thursday, June 10 at noon for the second in our series of five breakout panels exploring ways to incorporate pro bono practice into your professional life and avenues to support under-represented individuals. Our expert panel will discuss the strategies that poverty lawyers employ to serve their clients, explore the wide-ranging legal issues that individuals living in poverty face, and discuss available pro bono opportunities in D.C. and nationwide to help address these needs.
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