skip to Main Content
Graphic: D.C. Government Pro Bono Policy

Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel Promulgates Pro Bono Policy for D.C. Government Lawyers

Let’s admit it – for some of us, embarking on our first pro bono project can seem a little daunting. For lawyers working for the District of Columbia government, it can seem even more complicated, as seemingly countless questions can arise:  Who in my office grants me permission to do pro bono work? Where can I obtain malpractice insurance? Am I permitted to use my leave when pro bono activities occur during the workday? How can I be sure my pro bono work poses no conflicts of interest? Fortunately, now all D.C. government lawyers working in the Executive Branch have answers to these and many other questions that are addressed in the new pro bono policy promulgated by the Mayor's Office of Legal Counsel. The Mayor's new policy provides much-needed direction to lawyers who want to give back to their community and discharge their professional responsibilities as attorneys by participating in pro bono work.
Photo: Amazon Pro Bono Team Group Photo

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Amazon & DC Pro Bono Center Collaboration – Partnership Aids D.C. Entrepreneurs, Nonprofits

Long before Northern Virginia was announced as home to Amazon's HQ2, many Amazon employees called a Ballston office building "work" and the D.C. metro area "home." In 2019, Aisha Gantt, Senior Corporate Counsel at Amazon Web Services (AWS), reached out to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center to discuss how Amazon's legal team could use their skills to support the District’s nonprofits and small businesses. After reviewing the Center’s Nonprofit & Small Business Legal Assistance Program needs and the skills of Gantt and her team, the organizations partnered to launch a brand-new service: the Startup Legal Clinic for Nonprofits & Small Businesses.
Photo: David Fischer Elana Fowlkes

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: New Tax Credits Project – A Bridge to Economic Security

On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law. Under ARPA, for 2021 the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned-Income Tax Credit (EITC) were significantly expanded and made refundable, greatly increasing the benefits available for low-income families and individuals, expanding the pool of individuals eligible for these benefits, and permitting cash payments regardless of taxable income. Recognizing the need to inform parents, other caregivers, and low-income families in the D.C. community of these expanded benefits, and to apprise them of the steps to obtain them, Melody Webb, Executive Director of Mother’s Outreach Network, teamed with Susie Hoffman, Public Service Partner at Crowell & Moring LLP, to identify support for a workshop for parents, ultimately named the “Parents’ Tax Workshop: The EITC and CTC.”
Photo: Harvey, Kollm, Manning, Schulman Headshot Photo Collage

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Joint Pro Bono Team – Bolstering Due Process for All People in Immigration Proceedings

Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition is fortunate to work with many outstanding attorneys in protecting immigrants’ rights. Recently, a group of talented pro bono attorneys at two of our long-term partner firms collaborated in cutting-edge litigation in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Top-notch appellate advocacy by Susan Baker Manning, Patrick Harvey, and Clara Kollm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and by Steven H. Schulman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP led to a landmark decision earlier this year that bolsters due process for all people in immigration proceedings, and especially for those who must proceed without the benefit of counsel.
Graphic: Harvey And Howard Headshots

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Stephenson F. Harvey and Keith L. Howard – A Dynamic Duo Fighting for DC Kids

Across DC, more than 13,000 students have special education needs. But getting the right education to meet those needs is a far reach for many. More often than not, students and their families call on lawyers to ensure they get the right evaluation, plans and services to put their child on track. And the urgency to ensure children’s special education needs are met has skyrocketed over the past 18 months as many students are waiting for delayed evaluations or haven’t received the services they deserve due to virtual learning barriers. Attorneys Steve Harvey and Keith Howard have known each other since 2004. They shared the same passion from the start of their legal careers – pursuing justice for low-income families by representing children in special education cases. Since 2017, they have partnered together to represent students with special education needs in over a dozen pro bono cases for Children’s Law Center.
Photo: Nadira Clarke And Dog

DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profile: Nadira Clarke – Making Virtual Custody Representation Better for Clients

Nadira Clarke, Baker Botts partner, and Washington, D.C. Section Chair of the firm’s Environmental Safety & Incident Response Group, has leaned into leadership roles, mentorship opportunities, pro bono work, and more since joining Legal Aid’s Board of Trustees in 2018.  Indeed, when it came to encouraging pro bono engagement with Legal Aid, Nadira resolved to model the behavior she wanted to see in her colleagues.  Having previously handled sex-based discrimination litigation and immigration matters, Nadira is no stranger to pro bono work.  Yet, she was willing to dive into a new area of law and has been accepting child custody case referrals from Legal Aid in recent years. Nadira is making an indelible impact on Legal Aid as an organization, the professional development of the colleagues she supervises and mentors, and, most importantly, the lives of the clients she represents.
Photo: Blair Decker Headshot

DC Pro Bono Week Profiles 2021: Blair Decker – Advancing Crime Victims’ Rights

Without pro bono support, only crime victims with the financial resources to hire skilled attorneys would benefit from the formidable array of victims’ rights laws and benefits applicable in the District of Columbia. The natural inertia of the criminal legal system and the highly adversarial interests of those involved creates an environment where victims’ rights are susceptible to encroachment. Since the incredible majority of crime victims cannot afford their own attorneys, crime victims are often left without even knowing they had rights that could have been enforced. Blair Decker has stepped into this gap to accept a wide range of pro bono opportunities at NVRDC and has positively affected our work with crime victims and surviving family members of homicide victims, and has facilitated a broader systemic transformation in a variety of ways.
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.
Back To Top