2016 Celebration of Leadership Recap

By Jeffery Leon

June 24, 2016

On June 15, at its annual Celebration of Leadership at the Mayflower Hotel, the D.C. Bar honored the past year's accomplishments of people and organizations that have made a significant impact on the legal profession and the community at large. Check out this year's highlights:

Making the World A Little More Full of Hope

Monika Kalra Varma at Presidents ReceptionAt the Presidents' Reception preceding the dinner and awards ceremony, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Executive Director Monika Kalra Varma spoke about the darkness she felt about the recent tragedies in Orlando. But looking out into the room full of volunteers and donors at the reception, she said she saw the light that each one brought. "Each day you and your colleagues find a few extra hours to serve, walk into an area of law you do not practice in, or donate to our organization so that you can make the world a little more fair, a little more just, and full of hope," she said.





Providing Critical Access to Legal Assistance

Amy Bess at Presidents' ReceptionThe Presidents' Reception honors the donors who fund a significant portion of the Pro Bono Center's work each year so that attorneys can continue to focus on providing critical access to justice to individuals in need. 

"This year we have connected more than 300 clients with pro bono lawyers for full representation for many of your law firms. Volunteers have helped people stay in their homes, rebuild their families, access vital public benefits, and discharge crippling debt," said Pro Bono Committee Chair Amy Bess. 

The reception also featured remarks from former Bar president Tim Webster and Annamaria Steward, who was inaugurated as the Bar's 45th president that evening. Steward pledged to serve in every Advice and Referral Clinic hosted by the Pro Bono Center this year.


More Than 30 Years of Incredible Service

Katherine Mazzaferri at the Celebration of LeadershipThe dinner portion of the Celebration of Leadership began with a special thank you to D.C. Bar Chief Executive Officer Katherine Mazzaferri, who will be retiring in 2017 after more than 30 years of service. 

"Katherine is warm, loyal, thoughtful, principled, and very savvy. Although the Bar has a large mission and limited means, [Katherine] and her team have managed to build programs that are the envy of associations around the country. She has also worked tirelessly to promote and maintain strong ties to our judiciary in Washington, D.C., ties that few other bars can boast. There would be no D.C. Bar as we know it without the steady leadership and vision of Katherine Mazzaferri," said Webster. Taking the stage, Mazzaferri said, "I am humbled and honored to have been your CEO for these many years."

Excellence in Government Service

Mary McLeod accepting Rosenberg Award

Mary E. McLeod, who spent nearly 40 years with the U.S. Department of State, received the Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service. "It wasn't always easy. Ask me about drones, or Egypt, [or] coups, but I always felt the [State Department's Office of the Legal Adviser] mattered," said McLeod, adding that she was proud to represent the office, the department, and the country. "Looking back, I may have started as an accidental government lawyer, [but] I'm now a veteran government lawyer and I cannot imagine a legal career that would have been more enjoyable or worthwhile."

Commitment to Equal Justice

Avis Buchanan accepts Marshall AwardAvis E. Buchanan received the Justice Thurgood Marshall Award for her work as a skilled litigator at the Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District of Columbia and her tireless pursuit of equal justice for all. 

"[Justice Marshall] was someone who chose to set his course by the North Star throughout his life. Someone who had a powerful impact on civil rights and criminal law, the very fields I've devoted my career to. He spent his career in front of the Supreme Court and on it, making the law work for black people and for poor people everywhere instead of against them," said Buchanan. 

Of her career, she said, "I was very aware that when I went to court and litigated cases that I was carrying the Public Defender Service name with me, and that PDS was the best public defender office in the country."

"We're Just Getting Started..."

Annamaria Steward takes oath of office

In an emotional moment before Steward was set to take her oath of office from D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Eric T. Washington, Steward's mentor Judge Annice Wagner surprised her on stage. Early in her career, Steward clerked for Judge Wagner when the latter served as chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

"The D.C. Bar runs on the power of thousands of lawyers each year, but this is an inclusive bar, and together we can achieve even more . . . Let's work together to make 2016 a history-making year in expanding the reach of the Bar throughout the D.C. community, throughout the legal community, and throughout the world," Steward said in her first speech as president. "We've already seen the power of this bar, but we're just getting started."

Read more about the award winners honored at the Celebration of Leadership:

Section of the Year: D.C. Bar Litigation Section 

Bar Project of the Year: District of Columbia Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Digest

Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award:
Roland C. Goss of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A.
Jeffrey M. Sherman of the Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Sherman

Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year: DLA Piper LLP

Frederick B. Abramson Award:
D.C. Bar Strategic Planning Committee
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Strategic Assessment Task Force