During DC Pro Bono Week 2019 we profiled lawyers who made a profound difference in the lives of their pro bono clients despite heavy demands on their time. We hope they have inspired you to take on your own pro bono case.
D.C. hosts over 2,000 protests a year. This unique landscape gives local lawyers an amazing chance to protect democracy and uphold the First Amendment.
To highlight and promote pro bono opportunities in this exciting area, the Washington Council of Lawyers hosted Pro Bono in Protest: Protecting First Amendment Freedoms in the District on October 22, 2019 at Steptoe & Johnson, with co-sponsorship from the American Constitution Society, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Washington, DC, and the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association.
Every year, pregnancy-related complications kill about 700 women. That’s bad enough, but the racial disparity makes it even worse: Compared to white women, black women are three times more likely to die because of pregnancy. Ujima: The National Center on Violence…
Paul Thompson, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery LLP, is a very successful, well-known appellate lawyer. Despite his busy practice, he regularly uses his skills and experience to advocate on behalf of pro bono clients. He handles a wide-range of appeals on behalf of pro bono clients and is a frequent author of amicus briefs. Two of his most noteworthy efforts this year highlight Paul’s commitment to pro bono.
Voucher discrimination is rampant in DC. Every day, new apartment ads are posted online that say no vouchers, and every day people are illegally rejected from housing because a landlord does not want to accept vouchers. This problem is so widespread and so harmful that it demanded the attention of Neighborhood Legal Services Program. Once we started working on it, we quickly realized the significant impact pro bono attorneys could have. In 2017, NLSP piloted the idea of collaborating with government pro bono volunteers to file Office of Human Rights (OHR) complaints against landlords who turned people away from housing because they had vouchers. Jane Garrido was one of the first pro bono attorneys to file an OHR complaint on behalf of someone experiencing voucher discrimination. She and one of her colleagues at the Department of Labor helped a man who was experiencing homelessness to navigate the OHR process and to demand justice from the landlord who had rejected him illegally. After that first experience, Jane came back for more. And kept coming back!
For Tammy Hui, a volunteer with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Legal Assistance Program, entrepreneurship is in her blood. Tammy is a native of Edmonton, the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta, where she grew up as the daughter of a general contractor father and the niece of automotive shop owners and restauranteurs. “That’s what attracted me to business owners, that entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “Folks who are willing to make huge leaps without any protection. I’m drawn to helping those people as best I can.”
“Busy.” It seems this one word has become an increasingly acceptable answer any time a friend or colleague asks “How are you?” As Chief Privacy Officer of Verizon, Karen Zacharia would be justified in doing this. But she won’t. Not unless you ask her outright. And she is never too busy for pro bono. In a city full of capable, ambitious attorneys eager to prove how busy they are by commiserating about outlandish deadlines and skipped meals, Karen, sets an example by finding time to do pro bono work and encouraging others to do the same. “I recently heard someone use the phrase ‘ruthless prioritization.'” She says. “That phrase very aptly describes how I manage my time. I determine what is most important for me professionally and personally and try to focus on those items as much as possible. I appreciate how fortunate I am, and it has always been important to me to try to ‘give back’ to others.”
Jody Cummings, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, has been an ardent pro bono volunteer for the Expungement Clinic for Rising for Justice (formerly Law Students In Court) for more than two years. His service to the people of the District of Columbia through his volunteerism is exemplary. Jody is the model of sustained excellence in pro bono service.