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Your Law Firm Can Change Lives

February 12, 2021

By Matt Stephen

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For 27 years, D.C. residents who need a lawyer to represent them have sought help from the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic. The Clinic has placed thousands of cases with volunteer attorneys who have transformed their clients’ lives. Without the Clinic and our dedicated volunteers supported by Pro Bono Center staff and expert mentors, individuals with legal problems impacting their families, their homes, and their livelihoods would be left to navigate the court system and government agencies alone.  

A lawyer can make a real difference
Pro bono attorneys working on housing matters help people avoid eviction and improve their living conditions. Attorneys in family law matters help parents and other caregivers come to agreements that stabilize children’s lives. Volunteers in public benefits cases help people who are not able to work secure basic income benefits to which they are entitled.

More flexible volunteer opportunities
COVID-19 has changed the way volunteers interact with clients, but the demand for help—often in desperate situations—remains. “Remote services have unfortunately virtually eliminated in-person interaction with clients,” says Lise Adams, the Pro Bono Center’s Director of Legal Services for Individuals & Families. “However, remote service has allowed volunteers more flexibility in meeting with clients, reviewing case materials, and participating in court hearings, and has also benefitted clients who don’t have to worry about transportation or childcare costs, and can remain safely at home during the pandemic.”

The Advocacy & Justice Clinic provides unique support for volunteers. The Center staff manage all intakes, provide expert mentorship throughout the life of the case, and offer live and on-demand training in family, housing, and public benefits so attorneys have even more access to support.

Advocacy & Justice Clinic volunteers can have a tremendous impact on the lives of individuals and their families:

Trinity* was living in a building with poor housing conditions, including broken windows that had not been repaired, mold, pest infestations that had not been remediated, and a front door that would not close, which meant that strangers who did not live there entered the building and slept in the hallway. When she asked her landlord to make repairs, the landlord refused. When she sought the Pro Bono Center’s help at the Landlord Tenant Resource Center, we referred her case to the Advocacy & Justice Clinic. A volunteer attorney then counseled her on further legal proceedings and represented her in several court hearings when the landlord continued to resist making the necessary repairs. Finally, the landlord relented, and Trinity’s pro bono attorney was able to negotiate an agreement between the parties. The case settled, ultimately resulting in abatement of the rent because of all the housing code violations and most importantly, a safe home for Trinity.

For many District residents living on low-incomes, COVID-19 represents an economic catastrophe. With an expected flood of clients seeking representation after the moratoria on evictions and debt-collections end, the Center is optimistic that the newfound flexibility can make it easier for more attorneys to use their skills to help D.C. residents who cannot afford a lawyer.

If your law firm is looking for meaningful and manageable volunteer opportunities for its members and associates that can transform the lives of D.C. residents, please contact Associate Director Adrian Gottshall at [email protected].

Note: Federal government attorneys may also participate in the Advocacy & Justice Clinic through the Federal Government Pro Bono Program. Contact U.S. Department of Justice Pro Bono Program Manager Laura Klein at [email protected] to get started.  

*Client’s name has been changed to protect privacy.

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