D.C. BAR 2020 CONFERENCE – DISCOVER MORE AT https://www.dcbarconference.org
 

News

Sadina Montani: We Have an Obligation to Give Back

October 21, 2019

DC Bar Pro Bono Center Volunteer of the Week Header

Sadina MontaniSadina Montani, a shareholder at Vedder Price, draws upon her legal expertise in employment law when volunteering with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Nonprofit & Small Business Legal Assistance Programs. In this third DC Pro Bono Week installment celebrating attorneys who volunteer, Montani discusses her transactional skill set and how it applies to her pro bono work. 





Tell us about your work as shareholder in Vedder Price's labor and employment practice area.
My practice is focused on advising employers and litigating on their behalf. I work with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations, law firms, professional services groups, and businesses of all sizes to help them deal with any employment-related issues they’re facing. I ensure that employers have the right policies in place and help them adhere to all of the local, state, and federal laws that apply. I do a lot of anti-harassment training and internal investigations, as well as general advising on various issues as they come up. This includes everything from challenging management and employee issues to Americans With Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act leaves of absence.

On the litigation side, if employers do find themselves facing a charge of discrimination, or if they’re defending a lawsuit in court, I help there as well. It’s full-spectrum employment law help for employers.  

How long have you been volunteering with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center?
Pretty much my entire legal career! The first case that I took on was as either a first- or second-year associate, so I’ve been volunteering with the Pro Bono Center for about a decade. I feel very strongly that lawyers have an obligation to give back to our community. We have a particular set of skills that are useful for individuals and for organizations in many different, challenging circumstances. We should share those skills freely with those in need. 

What inspired you to get involved with the Pro Bono Center’s Nonprofit & Small Business Legal Assistance Programs?
My first pro bono experience was representing an individual in a child custody dispute where the mother did not have the resources to pay for an attorney. Although it was fulfilling to help a family in their time of need, the experience helped me realize that the best way for me to give back to the community in the pro bono world was to do the same type of work as in my day job. 

Helping organizations and businesses improve their practices is exactly in my wheelhouse. I have found that it’s a better fit for me, personally, and a greater use of my time to help local nonprofits put together an employee handbook, for example, or to help small business owners deal with the same employment issues my larger, paying clients are facing. The transactional law help that I can provide to a nonprofit or small business on a pro bono basis in just an hour or two means so much to them, and it is really rewarding for me because I know how much stress it alleviates. All my pro bono clients have been very appreciative of the help they’ve received, particularly when they were facing challenging issues. 

What has been your most challenging experience as a pro bono volunteer?
Often organizations, especially smaller nonprofits, don’t quite realize how much help they need. Working with them to prioritize projects can be challenging. Sometimes I’ll get in and realize that they don’t just need 10 to 20 hours of assistance putting together policies and procedures and systems. Instead, they have additional issues that need to be resolved and need a much more comprehensive scope of assistance. Trying to juggle that with my practice and wanting to do as much as I can, while understanding that there are constraints, can be challenging.  

How has volunteering in transactional law matters benefited your career?
It changes over time. For associates, pro bono service — especially transactional pro bono matters — is a great way to build substantive skills and learn how to interact with clients. When I was a more junior associate, I found it rewarding and a bit of an intellectual stretch to provide comprehensive advice to pro bono clients; it was an opportunity that most associates don’t get to practice with paying clients. When I was a mid-level associate, I had the opportunity to work closely with pro bono clients as they dealt with more and more challenging issues. That also was gratifying — being able to build my skill set while helping organizations that couldn’t otherwise pay for full legal assistance. 

Pro bono service is also a great way to build a reputation and spread goodwill associated with your name and your brand. I have come to know a lot of folks in the nonprofit community through my pro bono work, and that network has led to business. Pro bono work is underestimated as a valuable networking opportunity. I like to think that because of the goodwill and positive energy that I am putting into the community (not to mention showcasing my substantive skills), when folks are looking for an employment lawyer and have the resources to pay for it, my name will be front in their minds. 

If you’re a transactional attorney interested in helping small businesses in the District succeed, register now for the Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Legal Issues training on Monday, October 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Arnold & Porter LLP.