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Member Spotlight: Employment Law Mentor Jonathan L. Gould

June 17, 2019

Johnathan L. Gould
Jonathan Gould at the Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic.  

For almost 15 years, solo practitioner Jonathan L. Gould volunteered his time and expertise as an employment law mentor with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic. An outstanding mentor, Jon served as a sounding board and guide, helping attorney volunteers resolve their clients’ employment law matters. In preparation for retirement and a move to Connecticut, Jon’s last day volunteering with the Pro Bono Center was April 13. Jon will be sorely missed by Pro Bono Center staff and his fellow volunteers.

What inspired you to volunteer as an employment law mentor with the Advice & Referral (A&R) Clinic? 

I believe in pro bono work but could not integrate it very well into my solo practice because I usually was involved with a high number of contingency or partial contingency cases. I found volunteering at the A&R Clinic was a good way to do both. I learned about the Clinic from the D.C. Bar Labor and Employment Community (then Section) when I moved to Washington, D.C., in 2005. I initially served as a general attorney volunteer, taking referrals in areas outside my expertise and being guided by the Clinic’s mentors. Eventually, I became an employment law mentor myself and started serving in that capacity on a monthly basis at the Clinic’s Southeast and Northwest centers.

How did your expertise in employment law help you mentor attorney volunteers at the A&R Clinic?  

I was always in a small firm or in solo practice, so I had a background in all areas of employment law, including union work, employment discrimination, wage and hour cases, unemployment, and workers’ compensation and employee benefits. I had also represented employees in both the public and private sectors. The cases that came to the A&R Clinic over the years fell into all of these areas, so I felt I was able to assist the volunteers with almost any employment-related problem. 

In addition, I was active in the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association and knew what programs it was sponsoring to help serve low-wage workers. I also knew a lot of employment lawyers, how they ran their practices, what outreach they were doing, and how likely it was that the private bar would be able to serve a client. I tried to keep up with the changes the courts and administrative agencies were instituting to assist low-wage workers in gaining access to a lawyer. Finally, it was important to know what services were provided by other private organizations, such as the Employment Justice Center (now part of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs), the Claimant Advocacy Program at the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, and the many organizations that protected workplace whistleblowers. 

What should D.C. Bar members know about the challenges low income District workers face with respect to employment issues? 

Access to affordable legal services is still a major problem for clients with employment problems. But I think the D.C. area does a little better than most in trying to meet the need. Here there are many organizations committed to serving low-wage workers, and some of the voluntary bars have set up programs with the courts and administrative agencies to provide representation, if not on a pro bono basis, then on contingency or a “low bono” basis. Also, many of the courts and agencies find attorneys who will agree to represent clients for mediation purposes only. Sometimes this helps to resolve disputes without running up high costs for clients or lawyers. One of my major responsibilities as a mentor was to try to keep current on these available services and connect clients with them. 

Do you have a mentor who influenced you to serve others?  

One of my first partners, Jim Kestell, started as a union lawyer and probably could have stayed with that and done much better financially. But mid-career he changed his practice and represented low-wage workers almost exclusively. In my own practice, I did not take as many risks as Jim did. That influenced me to increase my volunteering time at the A&R Clinic because I felt I could not afford to represent as many low-wage workers as he did. 

What plans do you have to enjoy your relocation to Connecticut?  

I am currently finishing up four cases with co-counsel from my home office in Connecticut. I plan to spend much more time with my family in New York and New Jersey, supervising some construction on the grounds around my new house, doing some fishing, and certainly a lot more hiking and swimming than I was able to do in the past. 

 

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center salutes Jonathan Gould’s extraordinary pro bono commitment and dedicated service to the community over the past 15 years. On behalf of our staff, clients, and the hundreds of volunteers he has mentored since 2005, we wish Jon a happy, healthy, and well-deserved retirement!