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Bar Announces 2024 Annual Award Winners

April 19, 2024

By John Murph

D.C. Bar Annual Awards

The D.C. Bar has selected the winners of its 2024 Annual Awards honoring individuals and organizations whose outstanding work and exceptional projects benefited Bar membership, enriched the legal community, and expanded access to justice. The following awardees made important contributions to the advancement of the legal profession and provided critical assistance to the District’s most vulnerable populations.

Frederick B. Abramson Award
Amended DCCA Rules Governing the Bar

In January 2024, the D.C. Court of Appeals adopted comprehensive amendments to the Rules Governing the District of Columbia Bar, marking the first time the Rules have been updated since the Bar’s founding. Work on the amendments, which began in 2020 and spanned the terms of three D.C. Bar presidents, was led by Mark A. Salzberg, then chair of the D.C. Bar Regulations/Rules/Board Procedures Committee (now the D.C. Bar Governance Committee). Salzberg’s leadership was crucial in completing a multilayer review of the Rules as well as the Bar’s Bylaws, and in securing buy-in from D.C. Bar staff, the Board of Governors, and ultimately the Court of Appeals.

In transmitting the proposed amendments to the court, the Board of Governors stated that the “amendments to the Rules will make it easier for D.C. Bar members to locate applicable rules and requirements regarding their membership and other procedures related to the Board and the Bar. These changes will also afford the Bar and the Board some flexibility in addressing basic governance issues, organizational concerns, as well as administrative and other matters related to membership.”

Community of the Year Award
D.C. Bar Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Community

The Environment, Energy and Natural Resources (EENR) Community consistently delivers outstanding programs that include podcasts, webinars, and lunch-and-learn seminars to ensure that D.C. Bar members have access to information on leading issues. The EENR Community has established ongoing partnerships with various affinity groups, including the Native American Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association, to engage area law students interested in environmental and energy regulatory law practices at a time when legal expertise is needed to accelerate the transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

Voluntary Bar Association of the Year
LGBTQ+ Bar Association of the District of Columbia

Last year, the LGBTQ+ Bar Association of the District of Columbia reemerged in full force after a period of dormancy, in large part because of the pandemic. In 2023 the organization doubled its membership size, hosted a record number of social and educational functions, increased partnerships across the District and national legal communities, awarded fellowship grants to students for summer internships, and hosted its annual Pride Reception.

“We also sought new ways to recognize more experienced members of our community who had lost touch with our bar and its work, such as hosting regular networking receptions and marquee events to reenergize those individuals and educate them about how they can reengage with the bar,” said Josh Mogil, immediate past president of the association. Mogil also reported record turnout during the association’s most recent board elections.

Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

In 2023 Akin Gump’s D.C.-based lawyers contributed a total of 21,766 pro bono hours, with 14,488 hours dedicated to representing D.C. individuals and families, 4,133 hours to assisting D.C. nonprofits, and 612 hours to helping D.C. small, disadvantaged businesses.

The firm devotes significant pro bono energy to criminal justice and sentencing reform, the right to housing, and asylum and human rights protections. It has also partnered with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to run the D.C. Compassionate Release Clearinghouse in response to legislation passed by D.C. Council in 2020. Since the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision Montgomery v. Louisiana, Akin Gump attorneys have spent more than 8,000 hours representing clients previously sentenced as juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year
John E. McCarthy Jr.

Specializing in government contracts as a partner at Crowell & Morning LLP, John McCarthy Jr. dedicated more than 325 pro bono hours in 2023 to four custody cases, three of which involved multiple hearings. He also directed his pro bono legal expertise to full-day pro se clinics, hosted by Crowell, Accenture, and Lutheran Social Services, to help two Afghan clients seeking direct representation for their asylum cases.

Over the past 15 years, McCarthy has logged more than 100 pro bono hours each year to represent low-income clients in cases involving child custody, eviction defense, asylum, domestic violence, and veterans’ benefits matters. He is a driving force behind his firm’s Public Service Committee and serves on the Catholic Charities Legal Network Advisory Council and the board of Legal Aid DC.

The award winners will be honored at the D.C. Bar’s Celebration of Leadership on June 20. The Bar will also present its 2024 Thurgood Marshall Award to John Brittain, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, and its Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service to Paul M. Geier, assistant general counsel for international and aviation-economic law at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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