From time to time, we’ll be sharing interviews with our members, so we can learn more about their legal careers and the role that Washington Council of Lawyers has played in their professional development. Today we spoke with our Membership Co-Chair, David Steib.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am the Language Access Director at Ayuda, a nonprofit in DC that helps immigrants overcome obstacles in order to succeed and thrive in the United States. In my role, I work to eradicate discrimination based on national origin or disability by advocating for the use of interpreters and translators to ensure that language barriers never impede a person from receiving the services to which he or she is entitled.
I have been a lawyer since 2008, when I graduated from law school. In that time, I have spent four years as a litigator in the housing unit at the Legal Aid Society of DC and two years heading the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law.
2. What are you working on right now?
One exciting initiative that I am working on right now is getting legislation passed to add a private right of action to the DC Language Access Act of 2004, so that people whose rights have been violated will be able to sue to enforce their rights.
3. How long have you been a Washington Council of Lawyer member, why did you join, and what are some things you’ve done as a member?
I have been a member since 2008. I joined because I was a new public interest attorney (I graduated from law school in 2008) and one of my colleagues at Legal Aid (Jodi Feldman) encouraged me to become a mentee in the mentoring program. I was accepted into the program, and Dena Bauman, the public interest advisor at UDC Law, was my mentor. Now I work with her as a fellow board member and on our membership committee.
I have loved being a member of Washington Council of Lawyers. As a member, I have been both a mentee and mentor in the mentoring program and have attended many related events. I have also been to many of the organization’s happy hours and awards functions. I have volunteered with Gifts for the Homeless. I have also participated in the litigation skills training. And I have served on the Board for the last two years.
4. What have you found most valuable about your membership in Washington Council of Lawyers?
Membership has exposed me to great lawyers doing great work. That exposure has resulted in new friendships, new professional ties, and continued inspiration.
In law school, my friends and I created a new student group: Students for Public Interest Community Enhancement (SPICE). The group was meant to ensure that public interest law students (as well as law students committed to pro bono) had the moral support, access to information, and camaraderie they needed in order to devote themselves to the hard row that they were hoeing. Washington Council of Lawyers is like SPICE for practicing attorneys.
5. How has legal practice/DC legal scene changed since you’ve started practicing?
Since I started practicing, there has been a great increase in the number of postgraduate fellowships sponsored by law schools. These fellowships are meant to help graduating students who do not yet have employment by giving them the opportunity to practice and get experience while conducting a job search and while waiting for their bar results. On the one hand, they are a great way to get your foot in the door as a new attorney. On the other hand, they don’t always give you enough money to pay the bills. Big law firms in DC are also hiring fewer people than they were when I graduated from law school. In general, the job market seems tougher.
6. Any advice for law students/new lawyers?
Don’t hesitate to ask folks for informational interviews. You can learn a lot by talking to people about their career paths and about the resources that they rely on to keep abreast of the field and of new opportunities.
Thanks to David for answering our questions. And if you’d like to join David and the other wonderful members of Washington Council of Lawyers, you can do so here.