Pro Bono
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How to Volunteer

The Pro Bono Center offers volunteer opportunities in multiple legal disciplines. The Center serves more than 20,000 D.C. residents per year thanks to the generous efforts of its hardworking volunteers. Prospective volunteers should send a resume, interested practice area, and availability (full representation or limited scope) to Training and Volunteer Specialist Alison Percich at [email protected].

Ensuring Safe and Stable Housing During COVID-19

Join the Pro Bono Center in Answering the Call to Help

On August 30, 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland called upon the legal community to join him in helping to address the housing and evictions crisis facing our country. Citing a recent Census Bureau survey estimating that that six million households are behind on rental payments, and that about half of those believe they will be evicted, the Attorney General said, “The impact of evictions on these families and on exacerbating the pandemic would be devastating.”

“The legal profession is well-positioned to provide support for tenants, landlords, and courts during this crisis,” Garland said.  “Ensuring that our justice system delivers outcomes that are fair and accessible to all without regard to wealth or status is one of the highest ideals of our profession.”

The Pro Bono Center stands ready to help D.C. Bar members and law firms answer the Attorney General’s call to help.

View Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Call to Action.

Background

Pandemic eviction protections are ending and the federal eviction moratorium is no longer in effect.  Within the next few months, many District of Columbia tenants will risk losing their housing.  D.C.’s new eviction law  gradually lifts local tenant protections and allows D.C. landlords to file eviction complaints in phases.  Non-payment of rent cases can be filed in D.C. beginning October 12, 2021.

Tenants who fell behind on rent or utilities during the pandemic can apply for federal and local emergency rental assistance funds through STAY-DC.   Despite STAY-DC funding, some tenants will still face eviction proceedings.  D.C.’s eviction law includes additional protections for tenants, including the requirement that landlords offer or negotiate a payment plan for past due rent. .  However, many tenants do not know of or cannot insist on those protections without the assistance of counsel.   Prior to the pandemic, up to 95% tenants facing eviction appeared in D.C. Superior Court without representation.  On the heels of the pandemic, pro bono attorneys will be critical to helping us ensure all tenants get the legal help they need.

While the need for volunteers will increase after October 12, tenants need legal services now.  Throughout the pandemic, the Pro Bono Center has matched tenants with pro bono representation in critical housing matters.  For example, we help tenants forced to withstand the pandemic in substandard and unsafe housing conditions file for affirmative relief in D.C.’s Housing Conditions Calendar.  We also help tenants seal their prior eviction records to increase their access to safe and clean housing.  We offer on demand trainings to help volunteers get started today.

We thank you for your interest in supporting D.C tenants.  We look forward to partnering with you to serve our neighbors in need.

Get Trained

Beginning on October 7, the Pro Bono Center will offer a free, virtual, 5-part training series, “Landlord-Tenant Practice in D.C.,” which will emphasize evictions in the wake of the pandemic.  These training sessions will equip attorneys who have little or no experience in landlord/tenant matters to competently and comfortably represent pro bono clients. The training will focus primarily on proceedings in the District of Columbia involving indigent or low-income families. Each session will discuss COVID-19 related updates in the law or procedures.

We ask registrants to attend all five sessions in this series.

Get Involved

Since 1993, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic has matched thousands of D.C. tenants with pro bono counsel for representation in their eviction matters.  While pandemic protections for tenants remain in place, the Advocacy & Justice Clinic will emphasize matching tenants who receive a notice from their landlord as early as possible.  The District’s pandemic eviction law affords tenants some rights even prior to the filing of a case.  Matching tenants with pro bono counsel as soon as a notice of non-payment is received can help many tenants avoid being sued at all.

The Pro Bono Center supports volunteers by providing expert mentors, guidance from our experienced legal staff, and training and resources to successfully represent their clients.   We work with law firms, federal government employees, and individual volunteers.  

More information about working with a client through the Advocacy & Justice Clinic.

Volunteering Through Your Employer

If your law firm, government agency, or in–house legal department has a pro bono coordinator, he or she will be able to tell you about how you can become involved in ongoing public service activities through your employer. Many voluntary bar associations also undertake pro bono projects.

Pro Bono Training Sessions

Consider attending a D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center training session to familiarize yourself with an area of the law in which pro bono services are particularly needed. Trainees generally commit to accepting two pro bono case referrals from the Pro Bono Center or sponsoring a legal services provider within a specified time. This is a great way to learn a new practice area and gain practical experience quickly.

Pro Bono Programs for Individuals

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center has several types of programs that need individual volunteers. Our Bankruptcy Clinic provides counseling and legal assistance to potential Chapter 7 debtors. Individual volunteers also serve our Immigration Legal Advice & Referral Clinic.

Pro Bono Programs for Transactional Attorneys

Transactional lawyers can also find unique opportunities to serve through the Pro Bono Center’s Nonprofit & Small Business Legal Assistance Programs. These programs provide legal information, representation, and training to community-based nonprofits and small businesses that strengthen District of Columbia neighborhoods. Volunteers can participate in a brief advice legal clinic, provide on-going legal counsel to a nonprofit organization, or help with workshops that train nonprofit executives and small business owners in legal topics.

Pro Bono Programs for Firms

If you are interested in boosting pro bono participation by your firm, agency, or department as a whole, we can help. Our Advocacy & Justice Clinic, Landlord Tenant Resource Center, Consumer Law Resource Center, and Advice & Referral Clinic are coordinated through participating law firms, D.C. Bar Communities, and voluntary bar associations. We would be happy to speak with organization representatives about participating in our clinics or undertaking new pro bono projects. Please contact 202-780-2738 for further assistance.

Pro Bono Participation for Nonmembers

Not a D.C. Bar member? D.C. Court of Appeals Rule 49 specifies certain exemptions for attorneys licensed in other states who are not D.C. Bar members and who are engaged in pro bono work in D.C. Please check the rule to see whether you fall within one of these exemptions. Non-Bar members who fall within one of the Rule 49 exemptions are welcome to attend pro bono training sessions.

Other Pro Bono Resources

If you aren’t currently employed, or if your organization does not have a pro bono program or is not doing the type of pro bono work that interests you, research our online directory of legal services providers and look at Probono.net/dc to learn about opportunities to work on specific types of cases or with specific populations of clients. Probono.net/dc, the online clearinghouse for pro bono opportunities in the District, contains information and resources for pro bono attorneys in a variety of subject areas. Membership is free. The site also contains an area specially dedicated to U.S. Government attorneys.

Malpractice Insurance

The Pro Bono Center provides malpractice insurance for all of its volunteers.

If you are training through the Pro Bono Center, please check with the co-sponsoring organization that you will be fulfilling the pro bono requirement through. Most local nonprofit legal services providers provide malpractice insurance for their volunteers. If this is a concern, please contact the organization for which you are considering volunteering to verify that you will be covered.

Do you want to get involved in the Pro Bono Center’s work, but you are not sure how to do so? Contact our Training & Volunteer Specialist at [email protected] or 202-780-2738.

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