Who We Are
Enhance access to justice. Improve the legal system. Empower lawyers to achieve. These three pillars have remained the foundation of the D.C. Bar’s mission since its creation by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1972.
Today the Bar stands as the second-largest unified bar in the United States, providing the oversight structure needed to maintain the profession’s ethical standards and Rules of Professional Conduct. The organization is governed by a Board of Governors, led by Brigida Benitez, the Bar’s 43rd president. (View a list of past presidents.) The leaders work together to achieve goals set out in the D.C. Bar’s strategic plan.
At the core of the Bar’s mission is the charge to not only assist members but to protect the public; it shapes the way the organization conducts its business and activities.
Access to Justice
To address the growing access to justice gap, the Bar’s Pro Bono Program has developed programs that cast a wide net in meeting the legal needs of low-income District residents. People who need probate or landlord and tenant help, for example, can attend the D.C. Superior Court resource centers. Small business owners and nonprofits can contact the Community Economic Development Project. Brief advice on any civil legal matter is dispensed at the Saturday Advice & Referral Clinic. Through these types of programs and with the help of attorney volunteers, the Pro Bono Program reaches tens of thousands of residents each year.
Improve the Legal System
Since its inception the Bar has kept a fundamental commitment to protect the integrity of the profession, creating the Clients’ Security Fund in the same year to reimburse clients for losses caused by the dishonest conduct of D.C. Bar members. In addition, the Office of Bar Counsel and Board on Professional Responsibility work hand in hand to protect the public and the courts from unethical conduct by D.C. Bar members and to protect members from unfounded complaints.
To provide easy access to legal ethics rules and opinions, the Bar updates a searchable directory of all opinions issued by the Legal Ethics Committee. The Bar also provides guidance about the interpretation and application of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct through its helpline.
Recognizing that lawyers, judges, and law students may struggle during their career with problems that affect their personal or professional lives, the Bar also provides the free and confidential Lawyer Assistance Program to help address such problems.
The Attorney/Client Arbitration Board’s Fee Dispute Program provides an arbitration service for lawyers and their clients to resolve disputes about legal fees. The board has handled more than 300 cases in the past five years.
Empower Lawyers to Achieve
Whether at their desks or visiting the Bar’s offices, D.C. Bar members have access to hundreds of engaging, relevant educational programs through the Bar’s Practice Management Advisory Service, its 20 substantive Sections, and its award-winning Continuing Legal Education Program. High-quality programs are available for every practitioner. Online and in-person courses tackle a wide range of legal topics and best business practices.
Bar members also have the opportunity to develop and sharpen their leadership skills through the John Payton Leadership Academy. The Academy accept applicants annually for its intensive three-day training program.
The Bar partners with many local organizations, including the D.C. Courts, D.C. Bar Foundation, legal services providers, voluntary bars, and law schools, to stay in tune with the community. The Bar works with these organizations to host community-wide events, run clinics, provide essential programs and services to District residents, and much more. These partnerships are critical to helping the Bar maintain its focus on serving the public, supporting the judiciary, and enhancing the profession.