By Rebecca Goldfrank, Legal Director, DC Affordable Law Firm
DC Affordable Law Firm – DCALF, as we are more commonly known – delivers accessible justice to modest-income DC residents who do not qualify for traditional sources of free civil legal services and cannot afford standard representation, empowering community members with unmet legal needs while also launching the careers of public interest lawyers committed to accessible justice.
DCALF has long been the beneficiary of near limitless support from DLA Piper’s DC Office, with DCALF lawyers and Fellows often working alongside or under the deft supervision of DLA Piper litigators, like DCALF’s Pro Bono Litigation Director, Mary Gately of DLA Piper. DLA Piper’s pro bono contributions to DCALF’s work are vast – over the past twelve months, DLA Piper attorneys dedicated more than 500 hours to serving DCALF’s modest-income family law clients.
In 2023, two new pro bono players, David Horniak and Ken Knight, of DLA Piper stepped up to the plate and joined teams of DCALF attorneys in representing two different fathers, both hardworking, modest- income individuals receiving free legal representation from DCALF to advance their interests in child custody and divorce matters.
Ken Knight jumped into co-counseling a contested family law matter without hesitation. Ken worked right alongside DCALF client and father of two as he dealt with the sadness of his divorce and broken family. Ken tried hard to settle the key issues on property distribution to no avail. When he geared up for trial, Ken rolled up his sleeves and sat for hours with the client, working with him to develop a compelling narrative of the client’s contribution to the family’s finances. Ken, previously a stranger to family law, dove into the substantive issues and researched novel legal issues. He used his strong people skills and sense of humility to compassionately and ethically navigate the relationship with the opposing party, an individual who became self-represented just a few months before trial.
When it became apparent that a long-standing DCALF’s client’s case was finally going to trial after years of delay, limited custodial time, and having been cut off from marital assets, David Horniak didn’t skip a beat. He became a fast, zealous mentor to the DCALF Fellows and supervisors working with the client. David was a model pro bono partner, working nights and weekends right alongside our Fellows. David immersed himself in the facts of the case and did not falter as he precisely charted a path through three expert depositions and an arduous pretrial stretch. David’s skill and knowledge enabled him to deftly cross examine a key expert, exacting critical testimony during trial, while also strategizing on the small but incredibly significant details of the parents’ weekend exchanges of their children.
Though David and Ken are in different phases of their legal careers, their dedication to their respective DCALF clients was a thread of commonality shared between them. The fathers we are privileged to represent in these respective matters felt heard and seen by David and Ken. In these cases, David and Ken were more than legal tacticians – they were listening ears, diplomats, and deft case handlers who brought their exceptional client-facing and litigation skills to bear for two men who appreciated having such staunch allies in their respective corners. In David and Ken, we are fortunate to have two exceptional litigators giving of themselves so fully as they work alongside our team to advance justice for two clients navigating the most intimate of family struggles.