Public Spirit: Josh Toll Helps Clients "Overcome Big Obstacles and Take Their Life in a Positive Direction"

By District of Columbia Bar

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Josh Toll with his colleagues from left to right: Associate Alex Pogozelski, former pro bono intern Jennifer Riso, and Josh Toll

Public Spirit derived from Public Spirited: 

pub·lic-spir·it·ed (pblk-spr-td)

    adj. Motivated by or exhibiting devotion to the public welfare.

Josh Toll, Pro Bono Counsel at King and Spalding, and a frequent volunteer in several D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program clinics recently sat down with us to discuss his experience. 

DCBPBP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your pro bono service. As King & Spalding’s Pro Bono Counsel, you must feel strongly about pro bono service. What sparked your interest in this area?

JT: I am fortunate to have grown up in a very giving family where community service and volunteering were really emphasized. One of the main reasons I wanted to go to law school was to be able to help those less fortunate, and pro bono work is a great way to do that.

DCBPBP: How long have you been doing pro bono work, and what types of matters have you worked on?

JT: Pro bono work is extremely meaningful to me and I have been doing it for my entire legal career, going back to 1997. I have worked on a variety of pro bono matters, everything from representing indigent tenants in landlord-tenant actions to family law to representing inmates on death row. I have really enjoyed all of the pro bono matters that I have worked on, but I particularly enjoy being in the courtroom so I tend to seek out litigation pro bono opportunities.

DCBPBP:  How has King and Spalding partnered with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program?

JT: King & Spalding participates in the Pro Bono Program’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic and has had a wonderful experience. The Pro Bono Program staff does an amazing job running the clinic and providing great mentorship, which has allowed us to obtain life-changing results for our clients.

King & Spalding also recently joined the Advice & Referral Clinic, which is a Saturday walk-in clinic where anyone with a civil legal matter covered by D.C. or federal law can speak one-on-one with a lawyer.  It’s a discrete commitment of time for volunteers.  I have participated twice now and have really enjoyed it, and have found that it is a big hit among my colleagues who want to get involved but with a manageable time commitment.

DCBPBP:  Is there one client or pro bono matter that you remember that helps keep the tremendous need for pro bono service fresh for you?

JT: Yes. There is a client that was referred to us by the Pro Bono Program’s Advocacy and Justice Clinic two years ago who was an immigrant single mother with limited proficiency in English facing a divorce and child custody lawsuit. The case was a great example of the importance of pro bono to vindicate the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society. In addition to successfully representing the client in the family law action, we expanded our representation and assisted her with her immigration and landlord-tenant issues as well. Throughout all of the different cases, our client has been extremely grateful for our assistance.

DCBPBP:  What is the most important thing you have learned from doing pro bono work?

JT: My pro bono work has been incredibly meaningful and has brought me a wealth of knowledge as well as opportunities for professional and personal growth. While it is definitely a great way to build legal skills and confront novel and interesting issues, I think the biggest thing has been that pro bono work has shown me how rewarding it is to help a client overcome big obstacles and take their life in a positive direction.

DCBPBP:  What tips would you give to your colleagues at other large firms who are thinking about doing pro bono work?

JT: I would counsel my colleagues at other large firms to take that leap of faith and not worry about leaving their comfort zone. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program and other organizations in D.C. offer wonderful training and mentorship, and they will guide you every step of the way.

DCBPBP:  Aside from doing tons of pro bono work – what else do you enjoy doing in DC?

JT: I love going to see concerts, primarily at the 9:30 club and Black Cat, hiking the Billy Goat trail and trails in Shenandoah Valley, and I am constantly reading, usually multiple books at once.

Joshua C. Toll is counsel with the Special Matters and Government Investigations team in King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office. He focuses on government investigations, white collar criminal litigation, complex civil litigation, internal investigations and compliance counseling. Mr. Toll is also Pro Bono Counsel for the firm and is in charge of the firm’s overall pro bono program across all offices. Previously he was Chairman of the Pro Bono Committee for King & Spalding’s Washington D.C. office. Prior to joining King & Spalding, he was a trial attorney with the Office of the Public Defender of Maryland.