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D.C. Bar Celebrates Leadership and Service at Annual Meeting

By John Murph and Jeffery Leon

June 14, 2019

Susan M. Hoffman takes the Oath 
Crowell & Moring LLP partner Susan M. Hoffman (right) is sworn in as the D.C. Bar’s 48th president by D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby.  

The D.C. Bar held its 2019 Celebration of Leadership on June 11, shining the spotlight on members who lead the way in service to the Bar and to their pro bono clients and community. The annual event kicked off with a CLE course on leadership and marked the passing of the gavel to Susan M. Hoffman, the Bar’s 48th president. 

The celebration, held at the Grand Hyatt Washington, drew more than 400 attendees. Here are some of the evening’s highlights: 

Pro Bono Center Raises Record Amount 

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center welcomed Hoffman, public service partner at Crowell & Moring LLP, at a standing-room-only Presidents’ Reception. The event is hosted by past presidents of the D.C. Bar and raises funds to support the Pro Bono Center’s important work. 

The 2019 reception set a new record, raising more than $1.1 million in donations from Bar members, law firms, and supporters of all kinds. The amount raised will cover almost one-third of the Center’s total annual budget. 

Pro Bono Center Executive Director Rebecca K. Troth highlighted the service of Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year co-recipients Sidley Austin LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Matthew N. Robinson, and Blake A. Biles, recipient of the D.C. Bar and D.C. Attorney General’s Award for Lifetime Pro Bono Achievement. 

Rebecca Troth speaks at the 2019 President's Reception
Pro Bono Center Executive Director Rebecca K. Troth (right) extolled the dedication and commitment to access to justice of this year’s pro bono awardees.  

Brennan, Zavos Take the Stage 

At the dinner, the Bar announced its new Board of Governors for the 2019-2020 term and presented its prestigious Beatrice Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service and its Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Award. 

Rosenberg Award winner Anne M. Brennan served with the U.S. Department of the Navy for over three decades, managing more than 1,000 attorneys and support staff. As former acting general counsel of the Navy, Brennan handled high-profile investigations, protected the department from fraud, and oversaw the Office of the General Counsel’s support of relief efforts after natural disasters worldwide. 

Receiving her award, Brennan highlighted the importance of mentorship as well as the spirit of service at the Department of the Navy. She also brought attention to the fact that she, like Rosenberg, is a graduate of Wellesley College. 

“Government service is important to me for that sense of contribution, working toward a greater good and the defense of our nation and its democracy,” said Brennan. 

Brennan Award winner Michele Zavos has been instrumental in ensuring legal protection for LGBTQ individuals and families, and has been a pioneer in law practice dedicated to the rights of gay and lesbian people. 

“I commend the Bar for recognizing that legal work on behalf of LGBTQ families is civil rights work,” said Zavos. “Family protections are civil rights, whether in the LGBT community, on our borders, or for undocumented residents in our country.” 

Gavel Passes from Lim to Hoffman 

Esther H. Lim delivered her final remarks as D.C. Bar president, reflecting fondly on her service and encouraging attorneys to continue to effect change and help those most in need. 

“Like the little girl on the beach picking up one starfish at a time, lawyers have the ability and responsibility to pick up one person at a time,” said Lim. “Justice doesn’t live in courtrooms; it lives in each of us.”  

Esther H. Lim at the 2019 Celebration of Leadership
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP partner Esther H. Lim delivers her final speech as D.C. Bar president.  


Hoffman was sworn in as the Bar’s 48th president by D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby. In her remarks, Hoffman thanked Lim for her service and expressed her excitement to lead the nation’s largest bar and the one with the strongest pro bono ethic. Hoffman also shared her goals for her presidency, including emphasizing pro bono service and improving civic education in local schools. 

“To help someone through the magic of your legal skills is an incredible privilege that can bring into your life a sense of meaning that you could never imagine,” said Hoffman. 

Noting that her presidency falls on the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Hoffman announced that the Bar will be hosting a two-day event next June that will include panels, CLEs, and more to engage the local legal community and highlight this important milestone in history. 

Below is the full list of 2019 D.C. Bar awardees:  

Community of the Year — Taxation Community 
Voluntary Bar Association of the Year — Greater Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, National Bar Association 
Frederick B. Abramson Award — Development of the Online Mandatory Course by the Continuing Legal Education Committee 

Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year — Matthew N. Robinson 
Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year —Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Sidley Austin LLP 
D.C. Bar and D.C. Attorney General’s Award for Lifetime Pro Bono Achievement — Blake A. Biles, Arnold & Porter 

Beatrice Rosenberg Award — Anne M. Brennan 
Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Award — Michele Zavos