We are now accepting nominations for our 2020 Legal Services Award and Government Pro Bono Award. Each year at our Awards Ceremony, we recognize the extraordinary work of some of the District’s most dedicated public-interest and pro bono lawyers. Our 2020 Awards Ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 3. Our Legal Services Award recognizes a dynamic legal-services lawyer who represents low-income clients, works to improve access to justice, or thinks creatively to solve difficult legal problems. Our Government Pro Bono Award commends a dedicated government lawyer who also volunteers time to organize pro bono efforts or represent low-income clients. Nomination materials for the Legal Services Award and the Government Pro Bono Award are due by 5 pm on Thursday, October 1, 2020. Nominations should be sent via email to Nancy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org. The awards criteria and nomination instructions are below: Legal Services Award Our Legal Services Award recognizes the work of lawyers who serve in the public interest community: the staff attorneys who provide outstanding representation to low-income individuals day in and day out. These may be rising stars or unsung heroes – but they demonstrate a passion for helping people and a hunger for increasing the access to justice. We’re looking for nominees with one or more of the following characteristics: An advocate who has not previously been widely, publicly recognized for her or his work and whose work benefits low-income or otherwise marginalized clients in the Greater DC Metro Region; An individual who supports the DC public interest community in improving the access to justice for those who cannot afford an attorney; An advocate who has endeavored to bring together the public interest, pro bono, and government legal communities to improve the quality and availability of free legal services for those in need; and Someone who has gone above and beyond the normal requirements of their job to assist persons in need or has demonstrated outside-the-box thinking about how to resolve difficult legal issues. Past Winners: 2019 Tricia Monroe, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia 2018 Lindsy Miles-Hare, Ayuda 2017 Tracy Goodman, Children’s Law Center 2016: Thomas “Skip” Mark, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center 2015: Rebecca Lindhurst, Bread for the City 2014: Jodi Feldman, The Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia Government Pro Bono Award The Government Pro Bono Award highlights the important (and often overlooked) pro bono contributions made by government lawyers. Pro bono service can take many forms and is not limited to direct legal representation or litigation. Past recipients have promoted access to justice in a variety of ways and in many different substantive practice areas. The Government Pro Bono Award recipient will be a government attorney who has made significant pro bono contributions. The pro bono work performed may include, but is not limited to activities such as: Involvement in establishing or implementing an agency pro bono program; Increasing the level of pro bono service by agency attorneys through promotion or facilitation of pro bono opportunities; Mentoring or training agency lawyers handling pro bono matters, litigating cases or providing non-litigation legal services to low income people or entities; or Participating regularly in pro bono clinics. Please note that the above lists of pro bono activities are not exhaustive. We gladly will consider nominations of attorneys who have performed other kinds of pro bono service. Past Winners: 2019 Marissa Schnaith, U.S. Department of Labor 2018 Catalina Martinez, U.S. Small Business Administration 2017 Deborah Birnbaum, U.S. Department of Labor 2016 Katrina Rouse, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2015 Kathryn Legomsky, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development 2014 John Bowers, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2013 Jay Owen, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2012 Edward Eliasberg, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2011 Karen Shrimp, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 2010 John Warshawsky, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2009 Sean Keveney, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2008 Paul Kendall, Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Justice 2007 James Yoon, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2006 Mark Pletcher, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2005 Julie Abbate, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice 2004 Laura Klein, Pro Bono Program, U.S. Department of Justice 2003 Claire McGuire, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation & Department of Treasury Nomination Instructions Nominations should describe the nominee’s relevant professional activities, including: (1) a description of the legal services and/or other efforts upon which the nomination is based, (2) an explanation of the impact of that work on clients, other advocates, and/or others and (3) the time period covered by the activities. Nomination materials should be no longer than 6 pages in length, including the nomination, resume, and any other supporting documents, such as letters of recommendation. Please submit nomination materials via email to Nancy Lopez at email@example.com. Deadline All nominations must be received by 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 1. Learn more about the Awards Ceremony and past award winners.
Paul Smith has been recognized as one of the "nation's elite litigators," whose "profound commitment to advancing civil liberties make him a legal force to be reckoned with," as well as someone who is "down to earth but also brilliant." Washington Council of Lawyers knows him to be all these things, as well as our long-time board and honorary board member, former President, and frequent guest speaker at our events. We are so honored to recognize Paul with our 2020 Presidents Award for Public Service.
DC Pro Bono Week 2020 is a wrap, but the inspiration to make a difference in our community and the celebration of pro bono service continues. We know the work doesn't stop, and the pandemic has created a legal needs crisis the likes of which are unprecedented. As lawyers, we have a duty and obligation to help bridge the access to justice gap. Whether it's by taking on a pro bono case, volunteering for an advice and referral clinic, contributing to systemic advocacy, or financially supporting a legal services organization, we can all do something for the public good.
America is known as a nation of immigrants. It is a country that prides itself on being a melting pot and for welcoming people from many different countries, races, and religions, all hoping to find freedom, new opportunities, and a better way of life. A Conversation With Kids About Immigrants and Fairness was an event hosted by Washington Council of Lawyers on October 27, 2020, to talk to younger children about why people come to America, the challenges they face, the injustices they overcome, and what lawyers can do to assist the immigrant community.
Meeting clients where they are at is one of the most essential lawyering skills, made only more essential in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. On Monday, October 26, 2020, as part of DC Pro Bono Week 2020, the Washington Council of Lawyers hosted Coding Justice, a panel discussion on how to best serve clients remotely and keep them engaged.
There is a tremendous need for pro bono service in the District and there is a myriad of opportunities to get involved and make a direct impact in our community. On Monday, October 26, 2020, the Washington Council of Lawyers kicked off DC's Annual Pro Bono Week with the Chief Judges of the D.C. Courts, inspiring pro bono lawyers, and pivotal information about ways to help those in our community address legal needs.
Racial segregation persists in America. On Tuesday, October 20, the Washington Council of Lawyers sponsors a timely discussion among a panel of experts examining both the historical and the present dimensions of racial segregation in housing. Specifically, the panelists discussed the myriad ways federal, state, and local policies have promoted structural racial inequality in education, public health, voting, criminal justice, and more.
The numbers are shocking. Within two weeks of Mayor Bowser declaring a public health emergency back in mid-March, nearly 28,000 District of Columbia workers had filed claims for unemployment insurance (UI) – more claims than had been filed in the entire previous fiscal year. And that was just the beginning. As of September 22, more than 145,000 jobless workers have filed UI claims in the District, a historic wave of unemployment. In response, Legal Aid has mobilized significant internal and pro bono resources to meet the increased need for legal help. A team from Arnold & Porter stepped up to provide significant assistance in the effort to protect these workers.
Since joining Legal Counsel for the Elderly's Advisory Board five years ago, Arnold & Porter Partner Daniel Cantor has zealously defended D.C. seniors with limited means from eviction and homelessness. His exemplary pro bono work has resulted in life-changing victories that enabled his clients to stay in their homes.
Brad Guest volunteers his time to support D.C.'s small businesses because for the clients "this is often their life's dream, something they've poured their time and energy into often exclusively for a long time. Receiving pro bono legal advice may be the only opportunity for these individuals to get answers to questions that could not only impact their business, but also their personal risk and liability."
Join us for the first of this year's three-part Racial Justice Series examining institutional racism and how to advocate for real and lasting change for our clients. At our first event, our panel will examine both the history and the present reality of housing segregation and how federal, state, and local policies have affected and advanced systems of structural racial inequality in education, public health, voting, criminal justice, and more.
In December 2018, residents across the District were preparing for the holidays and enjoying the comfort of their warm homes. However, for those living in a Brightwood Park apartment complex, a fire broke out leaving six families without a place to call home. The children who lost their homes in the fire that night were not only traumatized – their health had been endangered by unsafe housing. Children's Law Center attorneys and investigators, led by Senior Supervising Attorney Kathy Zeisel, filed a complaint and secured temporary Red Cross shelter for the six families. But in an atypical moment for our organization, we brought in Williams & Connolly to co-counsel, knowing that an unusual case this size needed pro bono help from a team of fierce civil litigators. That team included firm associates Tracey A. Fung, Michaela Wilkes Klein and Tony Sheh, with partner Andy Keyes providing support and supervision.
Kristin Whidby is not a typical senior litigation associate. She handles complex IP, real estate, and securities litigation matters for a wide range of clients, but she does much more. She's also the mother of four young children, and in recent months has added the demands of managing remote learning to her other parental responsibilities. On top of all that, Kristin has continued to be an active volunteer for the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, providing direct representation to clients and serving on its Junior Board.
DV LEAP is fortunate to work with so many pro bono attorneys who make our work on behalf of family violence survivors possible. Each brings unique skills and commitment to our cases; each makes a critical difference in survivors' lives. Jennifer Swize, however, stands out for the breadth of the impact she has made—on both our clients and DV LEAP as a whole.
Anam Rahman was instilled with the values of philanthropy, altruism, and empathy from a young age. As a fluent Spanish speaker, Anam has been volunteering at D.C.-based immigration clinics like the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Immigration Legal Advice & Referral Clinic and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.'s Board of Immigration Appeals Pro Bono Project for years. "Finding the time to volunteer and do pro bono work reminds me of why I became an immigration attorney in the first place: to help people and families," Anam said.
Globally, 2020 has been a difficult year and the immigration legal field has been no exception. Changes, such as new asylum rules, attempts to raise fees and alter filing procedures, and developments in case law, have made an already complex area of law much harder to navigate. The majority of unaccompanied children lack representation in their immigration cases. Representing unaccompanied immigrant children can be complicated, as the majority of these children come to the United States after surviving trauma and leaving families and communities behind to seek safety from unthinkable situations. Further, these children are placed in removal proceedings with no guaranteed access to counsel or an adult to speak on their behalf. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to add further stress on this already vulnerable population, as low-income living and working circumstances increase the risk of contracting the virus, children lose access to supports in educational settings, caretakers are unemployed, and community supports are more difficult to access. Ellen Bass has come out of retirement to help these children find peace and safety.
Two of CAIR Coalition's longstanding pro bono partners, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, recently collaborated with each other and CAIR Coalition to profoundly change the life of a young Honduran child whom the government-held for nearly a year in prolonged immigration detention. In doing so, their teams of talented attorneys advanced cutting-edge litigation that will help many similarly situated children.
Shea Hazel joins the Washington Council of Lawyers as our virtual intern this fall. Shea is from Boston, Massachusetts, and will proudly graduate UMass Law in May 2021. She is a UMass Law Public Interest Law Fellow, Advisor to the Veterans Law Association, Vice President of the International Law Students Association, and a member of this year’s Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition team. Shea serves in the United States Air Force Reserve in Washington, D.C.
Washington Council of Lawyers co-sponsored and co-organized a timely and well attended virtual program, "In-House Pro Bono in the Time of Covid-19" on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. (Access the recording here.) Ninety-eight attendees heard presentations by seven legal service providers on currently unmet critical needs and virtual opportunities for in-house and other attorneys. We were proud to co-sponsor this event with the Association of Corporate Counsel of the National Capital Region, Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) program from the Pro Bono Institute, and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center.
If you're looking for a job right now, I want to offer solidarity and advice. I just completed a job search this summer and I feel what you're going through. You will pull through this. In the meantime, I hope these resources can help. There are already many practical tips out there to help you apply for and interview for jobs remotely.
In a time when there are many challenges and uncertainties facing the nation, it is important to recognize and celebrate the good in the world. Family Law Assistance Network (FLAN), a joint initiative between the DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), Legal Aid and the D.C. Pro Bono Center, is emblematic of that sentiment. FLAN, which opened at the end of March, in the midst of the pandemic, has already served over 200 litigants. Through this initiative, the DC Affordable Law Firm has been able to gain an even stronger presence and foothold East of the River as more than 50% of FLAN clients reside East of the River.
Some experiences are easily forgettable. Others stick with you. But a rare few mold you. I can still recall walking into the Community Development Law (CDL) Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law for the first time. At UDC Law, the clinical wing of the building is an exclusive area. It’s the cookie jar on top of the kitchen cabinet, out of reach until you’re tall enough to handle the weight. I did not expect to be nervous to start a class in law school.
This year, law firms, government agencies, and legal service organizations had to pivot to all-virtual summer internship programs. Virtual programming in general can be fraught with obstacles, but when you include multiple individuals located across the country, with varying access to technology, and no prior experience with an organization, you have a recipe for disaster. On August 6, we brought together interns and summer associates to celebrate the end of their summer programs and to find out how it went. The short answer was, "Great!"
When Dean Renee Hutchins announced that our spring break would be extended due to worries over the COVID-19 global pandemic, to be honest, I was somewhat relieved. I would now be able to use the time that I had previously dedicated to commuting to and from school to catch up on work or sleep. Little did I know that my sense of relief would soon turn into horror when Dean Hutchins announced that we would move to remote learning indefinitely, which meant the second half of my 2L spring semester would be completed entirely at home. Now that I have completed my 2L year, I can confidently say that the biggest challenge I’m experiencing as a law student during COVID-19 is the lack of community. I didn’t realize the vital impact of campus life to my law school experience until I no longer had access to it. Prior to COVID-19, I utilized professor’s office hours frequently and benefited from in-person discussions of course material, client matters, and writing assignments. Before class, it was helpful to discuss a complex case or confusing concept with my colleagues, and after class, review important takeaways from the classroom discussion while studying in groups. Having an opportunity to engage with my colleagues outside of the classroom by participating in student organizations further solidified the strong sense of community at UDC Law.