Pro Bono Week Profile: Alexis DeBernardis (Crowell & Moring)

Pro Bono Week Profile: Alexis DeBernardis (Crowell & Moring)

By Children's Law Center Sleigh bells ring, judge is listening—is not your typical holiday medley. But it provided the soundtrack last December for five-year-old Charlie Young while Alexis DeBernardis, his pro bono counsel, fought for him in his custody case.  (Names have been changed to protect client anonymity.) Alexis is an associate at Crowell & Moring, but she also volunteers as a pro bono lawyer with Children’s Law Center (CLC). (more…)
Pro Bono Week Profile: Lara Burke (Bruch Hanna)

Pro Bono Week Profile: Lara Burke (Bruch Hanna)

By Priya Konings Representing unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children is challenging, and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) is always looking for pro bono lawyers with the time, patience, and enthusiasm to handle a pro bono immigration case for our clients. When Lara Burke of Bruch Hanna came to us, we knew that we'd found someone who could rise to the occasion. (more…)
Pro Bono Week Profile: Ryan Guilds (Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer)

Pro Bono Week Profile: Ryan Guilds (Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer)

By Melanie Orhant Ryan Guilds is a lawyer at Arnold & Porter Kay Scholer and board chair of Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC). Over the past eighteen years, he's found that pro bono work offers the chance to do "that not only feels good but also gives you skills as a lawyer." And Ryan has done pro bono work in spades.  Ryan's pro bono work started before he was actually a lawyer. While a 1L at the University of North Carolina School of Law, he worked on capital cases and developed an interest in prisoner's rights. (more…)
Pro Bono Week Profile: David Young (Ropes & Gray)

Pro Bono Week Profile: David Young (Ropes & Gray)

By Jodi Feldman and Neesa Sethi Earlier this year, David Young, an antitrust associate at Ropes & Gray, received the Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Over the past six years, David has been one of Legal Aid’s most active pro bono volunteers: He's regularly taken on Social Security Disability Insurance/Supplement Security Income (SSDI/SSI) cases and other public benefits matters referred from Legal Aid and other legal-services organizations. (more…)
Pro Bono Week Profile: Katie Towt & Ahuva Battams (Federal Govt)

Pro Bono Week Profile: Katie Towt & Ahuva Battams (Federal Govt)

By Vanessa Batters-Thompson Katie Towt and Ahuva Battams do not hide from challenges. In April, they made an extraordinary commitment to representing a pro bono client, Ms. E, in her custody case—with only one month to prepare for a trial scheduled to take place over three days.  Ms. E had tried for several months to find counsel, and she struggled to understand court procedures and rules while her children’s father—who sought sole custody of the parties' young children—was represented by an experienced (and well-paid) lawyer. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic recognized that Ms. E was at a tremendous disadvantage and tried to find a lawyer for Ms. E, despite the tight timeline. Fortunately, Katie and Ahuva understood Ms. E’s predicament and got to work right away. “For me, it is the duty of every attorney to help represent people in need," said Ahuva. "I am never too busy to help. I go home to a safe environment with a family who loves me, and I want to give others that safe environment, too.” (more…)
DC Pro Bono Week 2017: Entertaining An Idea

DC Pro Bono Week 2017: Entertaining an Idea

By Megan Jeffery We all, at times, get disenchanted by the daily grind. Sometimes it's nice to break up the monotony by exploring something new—perhaps sparing an hour or two to investigate something new could inspire you or someone else. With DC Pro Bono Week 2017, Washington Council of Lawyers is offering an opportunity to explore other aspects of the law, in a way that is concise and manageable. Events include: trainings, a happy hour, tours of pro bono sites, a cocktail hour, legal clinics, a luncheon, and a panel. Subject areas include: landlord-tenant, domestic violence, probate, small business, family law, veterans law, children’s law, expungements, and immigration. There is something for everyone. (more…)
$10 Million For East Of The River Students To Attend College

$10 Million for East of the River Students to Attend College

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $10 million grant for the D.C. College Access Program, a nonprofit that helps Ward 7 and Ward 8 students afford college. For more than two decades, DC-CAP has helped District students attend college, providing financial assistance as well as counseling and advice to students and their families. The new grant will allow DC-CAP to partner with the College Success Foundation to expand their outreach to middle schools in Southeast and will help to provide up to $25,000 in scholarships for each eligible student. (more…)
Our New Board Members (2017)

Our New Board Members (2017)

This year six fine lawyers are joining our Board of Directors: Emily Batt is an associate in the Employment Law Department at Paul Hastings and also serves as the Pro Bono Coordinator for the firm's DC office. Before moving to the District, Emily attended University of Virginia School of Law, worked with the Legal Aid Justice Center and Migrant Farmworker Project, and coordinated UVA’s Immigration Law Program. Emily and her fiancé Noah enjoy hiking and camping with their dog, Liam (recently featured on The Dogs of Public Interest Law). (more…)
Dogs Of Public Interest Law: Liam

Dogs of Public Interest Law: Liam

Our new board member, Emily Batt (Paul Hastings) has a great Australian Sheppard named Liam. Check out Liam and all the other public-interest dogs at The Dogs of Public Interest Law.
2017 DC Pro Bono Week: Full Schedule Of Events

2017 DC Pro Bono Week: Full Schedule of Events

Each fall, as part of the annual National Pro Bono celebration, we organize DC Pro Bono Week. DC Pro Bono Week 2017 takes place from October 22–28, and will offer lots of opportunities to do pro bono work, learn new pro bono skills, meet other pro bono lawyers, and expand your pro bono horizons. The full schedule of events is below. There are also a number of Affiliated Trainings taking place before, during, and after Pro Bono Week. (more…)
Dine Around For Justice (August 2017)

Dine Around for Justice (August 2017)

Dine Around for Justice is a fun and easy way to promote greater access to justice in the District of Columbia. On each Thursday in August, we will partner with a restaurant who will donate a portion of the day's proceeds to Washington Council of Lawyers. Dine Around for Justice will raise awareness and support for our mission of increasing access to free legal help for those in need. There are three opportunities this August to Dine Around for Justice. August 3: We invite you to make a reservation to dine at Farmers & Distillers (600 Massachusetts Avenue NW) on Thursday, August 3. Farmers & Distillers was named Best New Restaurant in 2017 by the Washington City Paper. Gather your friends and make plans to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner at Farmers & Distillers on August 3. You will enjoy an outstanding meal and support a worthy cause. August 17: Enjoy a meal anytime between 11 am and 1 pm at The Greene Turtle (601 F Street NW) on August 17. You must print and bring this Greene Turtle Flyer with you in order to participate.  Enjoy burgers, crab cakes, salads, beer, and justice! August 31: Bid on a seat at the lunch table with Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman at RPM Italian (650 K Street NW). Five lucky winners will enjoy an antipasto, entree, and dessert as well as fantastic company and conversation. Jim Sandman is one of the best access-to-justice leaders issues in the country. Get the bidding started here! The online auction ends on August 24. Join us for one, two, or all three opportunities to Dine Around for Justice!  

The Dogs Of Public Interest Law: Ovi

The Dogs of Public Interest Law: Ovi

New at The Dogs of Public Interest Law: Ovi! Courtesy of Federal Public Defender Caroline Platt.  Check out Ovi and all our other favorite public-interest pups at The Dogs of Public Interest Law on Pinterest.
Seeking Nominations For Our 2017 Legal Services And Government Pro Bono Awards

Seeking nominations for our 2017 Legal Services and Government Pro Bono Awards

We are now accepting nominations for our 2017 Legal Services Award and 2017 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 2017 Awards Ceremony will take place on Tuesday, December 5. 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. (more…)
RBG At #sumfo17

RBG at #sumfo17

Our 2017 Summer Forum is in the books. Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, everyone who helped plan the event, and all the students who attended! More photos to come soon… (more…)
Meet Jackie Rogers, Our New Summer Intern

Meet Jackie Rogers, Our New Summer Intern

We are delighted to introduce our 2017 summer intern, Jackie Rogers. Jackie is a rising senior in the Honors College at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. She is majoring in Political Science and Economics; serves as VP of the Young Democrats Club; and represented the state of Oregon in College Debate 2016. Last summer, Jackie interned at the U.S. Senate for Senator Ron Wyden. She's also interested in the legal system and how it can improve. At a recent conference, Jackie presented on inclusivity in Supreme Court decisions, focusing on cases that changed social, legal, and political status quo. And this fall she'll take the LSAT and apply to law school. Interning with us is another outgrowth of her interests in activism and the law. "Washington Council of Lawyers provides everything I wanted in a summer internship," said Jackie. "The organization works to ensure everyone, regardless of income, has access to our justice system. I look forward to learning about the legal profession and public-interest law." We're thrilled to welcome Jackie back to Washington, DC and to work with her this summer. And we can't wait to see what she does with her legal career!

Our New Deputy Director: Christina Jackson

Our New Deputy Director: Christina Jackson

Today we welcome Christina Jackson as our new Deputy Director. Christina has spent her career helping lawyers and law students do public-interest work, and we're proud to welcome her to our staff. Before joining us, Christina served as the Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships at NALP; before that, she was the Public Interest Specialist in the Office of Career & Professional Development at American University Washington College of Law. Christina has also practiced civil-rights employment-law for eight years in Georgia and Alabama, is a member of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and is a former member of the Equal Justice Works National Advisory Committee. (more…)
Fellowships 101: Video + Resources

Fellowships 101: Video + Resources

If you missed last week's Fellowships 101, we've got some resources for you: Delisa Moris's presentation slides about PSJD online resources and Malik's Walker's slides slides about resources available from the Partnership for Public Service. (more…)
The Experience Of Immigrants In D.C. Courts [Video]

The Experience of Immigrants in D.C. Courts [Video]

On June 16, 2017 we hosted The Experience of Immigrants in D.C. Courts featuring Katie D’Adamo Guevara (Immigration Attorney, DC Public Defender Service) and Susannah Volpe (Associate Director, Ayuda). These immigration experts highlighted the relevant laws, provided a flowchart of legal processes, and identified the ways that clients involved in civil and criminal cases may come into contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. (more…)
DC Bar Foundation Awards Access To Justice Grants To Legal Services Providers East Of The River

DC Bar Foundation Awards Access to Justice Grants to Legal Services Providers East of the River

The DC Bar Foundation recently announced the 2017 recipients of the Access to Justice Grants Program, which awards grants to DC-based organizations that provide free legal help to low-income DC residents. This year, over $4.5 million was awarded to more than thirty DC-based legal services providers, including more than $3 million in grant funding for providers assisting residents of underserved areas. In 2016, Access to Justice grantees served nearly 23,000 DC residents, 52 percent of whom live in Wards 7 and 8. In addition to the multiple legal services providers receiving grants to assist low-income and vulnerable citizens across DC, several grants will benefit East of the River residents directly. One new grantee for 2017, Tzedek DC, received funding to assist low-income DC residents in debt-related legal matters, including providing community outreach by partnering with the United Planning Organization in Ward 7. Bread for the City received continued funding for its community lawyering work at its offices on Good Hope Road SE. The project’s attorneys work directly with the community to help identify options to tackle issues affecting its residents and, when needed, provide substantial direct representation to the residents. The project focuses on affordable housing, housing conditions, and hiring practices. The grant awarded to Whitman-Walker Health will provide legal representation, counseling, and outreach to people living with HIV/AIDS and other low-income residents East of the River, through lawyers based at its Max Robinson Center in Southeast DC. Whitman-Walker offers free legal aid to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in DC, regardless of HIV status, and to health care patients regardless of sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity. Children’s Law Center received continued funding for its Healthy Together Medical-Legal Partnerships with Unity Healthcare’s Minnesota Avenue clinic in Northeast DC, and with clinics in Southeast DC. In this medical-legal collaboration, the lawyers provide services through the Unity Healthcare clinic and two Southeast clinics of the Children’s National Medical Center, working with families of CNMC patients to identify and resolve non-medical solutions to children’s health issues. Neighborhood Legal Services Program received continued funding to provide neighborhood-based legal aid in the areas of housing, family law, and public benefits through NLSP’s office Ward 7 on Polk Street NE, which will provide low-income residents of this underserved community with free and accessible legal assistance. And the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia received continued public funding to support their Southeast Neighborhood Access Project, which provides clients with access to lawyers who work in two neighborhood offices in Wards 7 and 8.

D.C. Bar Candidate Endorsements (2017)

D.C. Bar Candidate Endorsements (2017)

By Susan Hoffman & Barbara Kagan The D.C. Bar has over 100,000 members, and its leaders can influence the legal profession significantly. With this in mind, each year we endorse candidates for D.C. Bar leadership candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to pro bono service, the public-interest community, and access to justice. This year, we hope that you'll vote for the following candidates (listed alphabetically, and not in order of preference) between now and May 19th: (more…)
More Join Fight To Preserve LSC Funding

More Join Fight to Preserve LSC Funding

By Christina Jackson The White House’s $1.15 trillion budget calls for the defunding or eliminating a variety of programs and agencies, including the Legal Services Corporation. We previously reported on responses from LSC and its supporters. Other groups are joining chorus calling on Congress to fully fund LSC. Some recent highlights: (more…)
Trump Budget Would Eliminate Funding For Legal Services Corp.

Trump Budget Would Eliminate Funding for Legal Services Corp.

By Christina Jackson This week the White House released its $1.15 trillion budget—which, among other things, that targets domestic programs and calls for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, low-income heating assistance, and the AmeriCorps national-service program; it would also reduce funding for, among other things, Environmental Protection Agency, medical research, help for homeless veterans, and community-development grants. Another agency on the chopping block is the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). In FY16, Congress gave LSC $385 million—less than one-ten-thousandth of the federal budget. Our court systems are not designed for people to go it alone; cutting or eliminating LSC funding would especially harm the elderly, victims of domestic violence, veterans, tenants, and those in rural areas. And in many places, LSC-funded legal-aid organizations are the only sources of civil-legal services.
Beth Harrison And The Future Of Legal Aid

Beth Harrison and the Future of Legal Aid

By Craig Welkener As DC's affordable housing crisis deepens, Beth Harrison and other advocates have created an innovative program for people on the brink of eviction, pushing the boundaries of what has been possible in legal aid. By identifying at-risk tenants even before their eviction notices arrive, the Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project is making real help more available than ever before. Although housing laws in the District are complex, the vast majority of individuals facing eviction are too poor to pay for an attorney. Legal services have historically been limited to those with the time to track down a nonprofit lawyer ahead of time, or those who take advantage of last minute, on-the-spot help provided by the Landlord Tenant Court-Based Legal Services Project. That project, which provides housing attorneys on a same-day basis, was funded by the city in 2007. However, that paradigm has begun to change, with the start of the Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project. Beth Harrison, the director of the project, has worked in the trenches from the beginning. After earning her law degree from Harvard, Harrison arrived at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia in 2005 as an entry-level housing attorney. At that time, Legal Aid's housing law program consisted of only three full-time staff attorneys, one fellow, and two loaned attorneys from law firms. The work received a boost in 2007, when the DC Council appropriated funds to subsidize legal counsel for the poor. Legal Aid's housing work has grown since then to twelve permanent lawyers and three loaned associates. As Harrison explains, these changes have meant that advocates can serve more clients, and "a big piece of that has been the city's choice to appropriate that funding." But vast gaps remain. The DC Bar Pro Bono Center reports that currently 95% of tenants remain unrepresented, while 90% to 95% of landlords pay for an attorney. Systemic problems call for sustainable solutions. And the Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project—run by Legal Aid, Bread for the City, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and the DC Bar Pro Bono Center—is futuristic in its design. "We are reviewing all eviction cases as they are filed with the court," Harrison explains. For approximately one out of every seven cases involving subsidized housing, "we send a letter saying we want to represent you." If the tenant accepts the help, a lawyer begins working on their case pro bono—even before the tenant receives an eviction notice. The program began in 2015, and relies on a smorgasbord of local nonprofits and law firm pro bono work to accomplish the mission. By providing help exactly when people can use it the most, the Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project has the potential to truly change the norm of the unrepresented tenant. Perhaps this is the wave of the future. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie recently introduced the Expanding Access to Justice Act of 2016, which would increase funding for similar housing projects. Guaranteeing a broad “right to counsel … in civil cases involving fundamental human needs" is McDuffie’s long-term goal. Harrison is certainly inspired. "The legal work that we do here is incredibly challenging and rich. And the interaction with the clients of course is an ongoing benefit. It's an ongoing inspiration to keep doing the work." Craig Welkener is a volunteer with the Washington Council of Lawyers, a Ward 8 resident, and a Georgetown graduate clerking at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Jobseeker Clinics East of the River

By Caroline Fleming This January, Neighborhood Legal Services Program is partnering with DC Public Library to launch Unlocking Employment, a new series of free, community-based legal clinics. The clinics, which will be staffed by dedicated NLSP personnel, are supported by a grant from the LSC Pro Bono Innovation Fund; the grant will enable half-day pro bono legal clinics several times a month at two library branches: Bellevue/William O. Lockridge in Ward 8, and Benning/Dorothy I. Height Library in Ward 7. Volunteer lawyers will help low-income job-seekers address barriers to employment, including background checks, driver's-license revocation, and discrimination.
2016 Legacy Award: Marsha Tucker

2016 Legacy Award: Marsha Tucker

By Nancy Lopez This year is our 45th anniversary. When we got started back in 1971, we were run entirely by volunteers. Arnold & Porter's Marsha Tucker, winner of our 2016 Legacy Award, was one of those volunteers, and she soon assumed many of the responsibilities for running the organization. Indeed, for many years our mailing address was Marsha's office at Arnold & Porter. Marsha has made sustained, significant contributions to Washington Council of Lawyers, improving the organization by leaps and bounds along the way. As one of our board members observes, "it is hard to think of Washington Council of Lawyers without seeing Marsha Tucker in the background quietly figuring out what needs to be done and making sure it happens." (more…)