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Photo: In-House Pro Bono 2020 speakers

In-House Pro Bono In The Time of Covid-19 Recap and Volunteer Opportunities

by Jack Keeney, Jr.

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.

Moderated by former D.C. Bar President Patrick McGlone, himself an in-house general counsel at Ullico, McGlone emphasized that “the COVID crisis has really changed everything” and also increased the need for pro bono assistance. Quoting the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the obligation of every lawyer to assist those who could not afford lawyers, McGlone noted “this included in-house attorneys too.”  Each of the seven organizations provides insurance, training, and can help navigate bar admissions requirements such that these were not obstacles to pro bono volunteers.

There are many in-house pro bono opportunities,  even in these virtual work-at-home times.

  • Darryl Maxwell of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center emphasized both the need for legal representation in eviction, family law, consumer, and bankruptcy cases, but also the opportunity to participate in virtual clinics for small business owners.
  • Sara Tennen of the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project described the spike in reports of domestic violence and the increased needs of at-risk children as “astronomical” and “unlike anything we have ever seen before.” In-house counsel at Verizon, Katharine Saunders, described her pro bono work for DCVLP as guardian ad litem for a child in need and the personal satisfaction in making “a hands-on difference” for one child.
  • Teresa Lee of Kids in Need of Defense seeks volunteers to represent unaccompanied children in immigration matters. In-house pro bono volunteer Sarah Maguire of BAE Systems handled one of these and emphasized that no prior immigration law knowledge was required as KIND provided the training she needed to learn a new area of law.
  • Nancy Anderson of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law needs thousands of volunteers for the non-partisan Election Protection Program. Volunteers man a 24/7 hotline. There are also field programs available.
  • Megan McFeeley of Legal Counsel for the Elderly can provide support for legal clinics to offer pro bono assistance with the Schedule H Program of tax credit refunds to the elderly poor, and virtual drafting of end of life documents, among other pro bono needs.
  • Legal Services of Northern Virginia and Maryland Legal Aid serve the District’s suburbs and need virtual volunteers to address a wide range of civil legal needs for low-income clients.

As we discussed, there is a myriad of volunteer opportunities both in-person and remote. Get further information about these programs and how to get involved at the links below.

Other Helpful Online Resources for Pro Bono Lawyers

Finally, you can find more information about Washington Council of Lawyers here.

We hope you have been inspired to take up the mantle of pro bono. The need is greater than ever and you can help.

To learn more, you can watch the recording, In-House Pro Bono During the Time of Covid-19.

Jack Keeney is general counsel for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a member of the Washington Council of Lawyers Board of Directors.

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