On June 12, we held our annual Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum. We were joined at Arnold & Porter by over two hundred eager lawyers, summer associates, and legal interns—eager to learn about how to make public service and pro bono work an integral part of their legal careers.
Our Executive Director Nancy Lopez got things underway by sharing a line from “For Good”—from the musical Wicked—describing how we can be changed for the better by the people who come into our lives. Nancy drew not only the obvious conclusion—that clients in need can have their lives changed by lawyers who care—but also the converse: that clients can change their lawyers for the better too.
Then it was on the keynote speech, delivered by Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation. After urging everyone to join Washington Council of Lawyers, Jim shared some words of encouragement and advice for new lawyers. Among other things, lawyers shouldn’t feel the need to devise a master plan: “You shouldn’t have a plan,” Sandman said, because “opportunities for change are around every corner and you should welcome them and follow those that prove promising to bigger and better accomplishments.” He urged young lawyers to get involved in their communities, retain flexibility by living beneath their means—“I drove over here today in my 2003 Honda Civic. With a smile on my face, because I love what I do”—and to work hard on time management.
The rousing and humorous speech concluded with Sandman telling the crowd to “find and collect as many mentors as possible. They can even be younger then you, but find people who inspire and motivate you and don’t let them go.”
Attendees then broke out into one of five sessions. Each featured panels of experienced lawyers and advocates with experience in a particular field of public-interest or pro bono work. Attendees learned (among many other things) about the diverse career paths of civil-rights lawyers; coping with the intense emotional demands of criminal litigation; the complicated legal and humanitarian issues involved in immigration cases; the unique skills that new lawyers can develop working on pro bono transactional matters, and the desperate need for representation of parties in DC family court.
It was a ton of information and inspiration packed into just over two hours. And we can’t wait for next year’s event!