Letter From The Executive Director Of The DC Bar Pro Bono Program

2011-08-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

If you are interested in getting involved in pro bono work in Washington, D.C., let us be your starting point. The DC Bar Pro Bono Program touches the lives of over 20,000 individuals and hundreds of community-based nonprofits and small businesses each year. We offer a wide variety of ways a lawyer can make a difference, one client at a time.

We partner with a number of other local legal services providers to offer training programs to prepare pro bono lawyers to handle cases in areas of enormous unmet legal need in the District. We ask participants to take two cases referred by us or a co-sponsoring legal services provider, and participants receive extensive mentoring and support. Our next training schedule will begin in the fall and will be available on our website after Labor Day. Make the decision to get involved and attend a training session this year.

The DC Bar Pro Bono Program operates several clinics that assist individuals in need. Clients referred to our Advocacy & Justice Clinic are placed with pro bono lawyers from 35 participating law firms and several federal government agencies and receive full representation in housing, public benefits, family and consumer matters. The second Saturday of every month, our Advice & Referral Clinic offers advice and brief services to people who walk in at two community sites. We run four resource centers at the DC Superior Court to assist unrepresented litigants who are attempting to navigate the legal system alone. Our Landlord Tenant, Consumer Law, Probate and Tax Sale Resource Centers assist thousands of litigants each year.

Recently, we launched an Immigration Clinic. For several years, we offered an Advice & Referral Clinic conducted in Spanish to serve the low-income limited English proficiency population in the District. Increasingly, we have had people who speak Amharic, French and other languages coming to our clinic seeking legal help. We also have observed that regardless of the legal problem, the attendees identify with our volunteers; virtually everyone coming to the clinic has had an immigration issue or question as well. As a result, we have refocused this clinic to offer advice and brief services on immigration issues, and we now offer our services in multiple languages, not just Spanish. If you have language skills and/or immigration expertise, we could really use your help.

Our Community Economic Development Project (CED) matches law firms and teams of lawyers that have business law and transactional expertise with community-based nonprofits, including tenant associations, to serve as their counsel, to represent them in major transactions or to handle other corporate or governance issues. The CED Project also provides services to small disadvantaged businesses, and we are expanding our services in this area and need volunteers to work with small businesses and would-be business owners. The CED Project holds periodic brief advice clinics for small business owners, and we have opportunities for individual lawyers who can advise these business owners on a wide range of issues from entity formation to leases, contracts, employment relationships, regulatory and licensing compliance, and intellectual property issues.

Each of our programs is designed to meet a pressing community need, and we structure our programs to provide the mentoring and support pro bono lawyers need to do a good job for their clients.

We want to help lawyers find the pro bono opportunities that fit their interests and expertise. There are many ways to get involved, and we can help you find the perfect pro bono fit for your career and your life. Please visit our website at www.dcbar.org/probono for more information, and to let us know how we can help you help others.

Sincerely,

Maureen Thornton Syracuse