By Marsha Tucker and Melissa Weberman
Rwanda Campbell has dedicated her life to connecting passion with purpose. Throughout her decade-long career at Arnold & Porter, Rwanda has exemplified a core value of its pro bono program – advocating tirelessly for equitable access to justice.
As the daughter of immigrant parents from the twin island republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Rwanda speaks proudly of her cultural heritage, strong belief in community, and centering her work on her clients, especially as it pertains to the immigrant community: “Their resilience, numerous societal contributions, and power to mobilize masses inspires and informs my decision to continually give to others in an attempt to pay forward the support and assistance I have always received while pursuing my goals. It is often the smallest offering of ‘help’ that can make the biggest impact on one’s life and shape the trajectory of their future.”
This passion brought her to pursue a law degree at Howard University School of Law, where she took to heart the learned words of Thurgood Marshall: “A lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite.” Beginning as a Staff Attorney in 2012 at Arnold & Porter, Rwanda leaned into the power of Arnold & Porter’s pro bono program to chart an unconventional career path utilizing her unique skill set and background. While meeting the demands of her commercial practice, Rwanda represented her first pro bono client in 2013, a U visa case where the client was both an immigrant and survivor of domestic violence. Remarkably, Rwanda continues to represent that client today. Over the last 10 years she has successfully reunited the client with her three children who were formerly residing abroad and is now in the midst of securing permanent residency for the entire family.
Rwanda later went on to lead a unique partnership program between the Tahirih Justice Center and Arnold & Porter, where the Firm committed to processing all cases for U visa “adjustment of status” (i.e., green card applications for victims of crime who assist police) presented by the organization. To date, Rwanda has successfully obtained permanent residency for over 30 clients and their family members. In addition to her direct representation of clients, she partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2018, spending a week in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where detainees experience a 99.9% denial right of their immigration claims, and the majority of the population is unable to access and secure legal representation.
With her extensive experience, Rwanda has become one of the Firm’s trusted mentors on immigration matters. She serves in a leadership role on the Firm’s Immigration Intake Committee, helping to expand and bolster the Firm’s pro bono immigration practice. “Rwanda is an amazing advocate for clients with challenging immigration issues,” reflected Dan Cantor, Arnold & Porter’s Pro Bono Committee Chair. “From asylum to U visas, she maintains an active docket of complicated matters assisting those most in need. But Rwanda does not limit her efforts to individual advocacy. She also is a board member for Tahirih, helping this important organization deliver amazing services.”
In 2016, Rwanda was honored as Tahirih Justice Center’s Pro Bono Attorney of the Year for the greater DC area. She was recognized for her exemplary willingness to take on “complex cases for some of Tahirih’s most traumatized clients with zeal and compassion . . . [as well as] . . . a leadership role in Arnold & Porter’s signature project to help former Tahirih clients and their children become permanent U.S. residents.”
Rwanda’s pro bono impact is both deep and broad. In addition to an active caseload of immigration clients, she has volunteered in the DC Landlord Tenant Intake Clinic, helping to combat the area’s growing housing crisis. Each year, she protects the right to vote by advising voters on the Election Protection Hotline.
When Arnold & Porter sought to expand its full-time team of pro bono professionals, Rwanda’s steadfast commitment and passion to her work made her an easy choice. Today, Rwanda is the firm’s Pro Bono Manager. “Rwanda’s impressive organizational and legal skills, as well as her natural warmth and empathy, makes her an exceptional advocate for the Firm’s pro bono program and our clients,” stated Lucy McMillan, the Firm’s Chief Pro Bono Counsel.
Although Rwanda’s impact on communities most in need has been profound and immeasurable, she does not believe that her work is complete, and continues to embody this passion as a daily practice. “Balancing numerous pro bono clients with the demands of commercial work and family commitments can at times feel a bit overwhelming and requires sacrifice and personal resolve. The lessons learned from the clients who I have had the privilege of working with have enriched me both personally and professionally in ways that I never anticipated and I will forever be grateful.”
Marsha Tucker is Director of Pro Bono at Arnold & Porter and a Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member. Melissa Weberman is the Lead Attorney & Managing Director of Arnold & Porter’s eDiscovery & Data Analytics group and a Washington Council of Lawyers Board Member.