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Wendy Hadfield: Learning Something New About the Law

October 7, 2019

DC Bar Pro Bono Center Volunteer of the Week Header

By John Murph

Hadfield

Wendy Hadfield, a paralegal specialist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is a passionate advocate for helping others. Admitted to the D.C. Bar in 2018, she has accumulated more than three years of experience volunteering with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic. Pro bono work, Hadfield says, provides the perfect opportunity to build her legal skills and meet fellow attorneys. Read about Hadfield’s experience in this first installment of our series celebrating pro bono attorneys ahead of DC Pro Bono Week 2019 (October 20–26).  

What is your role at the Federal Communications Commission?
I work for the Office of the Inspector General as a paralegal specialist supporting attorneys who are investigating waste fraud and abuse. We do a lot of False Claims Act cases. Additionally, I do a lot of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) processing for the office. I was barred in 2018, and I’m currently in the process of looking for an attorney position. Right now, all my work as a lawyer is pro bono. 

How did you begin volunteering with the Pro Bono Center?
I started volunteering in August 2016 doing client intake because I wasn’t barred at the time. I was working at the FCC, and the agency announced an opportunity to volunteer with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic. The FCC really supports its employees who volunteer their time in the service of pro bono clients. While at the clinic, I made it clear that I would be happy to help every month, and so I’ve volunteered most months for almost three years. 

I continued to conduct intake until I passed the D.C. Bar exam in July 2018. After I was barred, I started volunteering at the clinic as an attorney. I’ve volunteered so often that on two different occasions when D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center staff were either on vacation or transitioning to a new clinic staff member, I actually ran the clinic’s intake process with the help of another volunteer. 

What has been your most rewarding pro bono experience so far?
Meeting with clients at the Advice & Referral Clinic and feeling like you’re able to help someone is really rewarding. While doing intake, I met a lot of clients and got to know their individual circumstances. Now that I’ve transitioned into being an attorney, I love being able to provide legal advice and help someone who is struggling. It’s an opportunity to give back. 

What have been some of your most challenging experiences doing pro bono work?
Sometimes you need to tell clients information they don’t want to hear, and sometimes clients aren’t in a healthy mental and emotional place to hear that information. That can be difficult. It can be tough to deliver bad news to clients, like telling them that the statute of limitations has run out or that I can’t help them that same day because they didn’t bring the required paperwork that allows us to move forward.  

How has pro bono service benefited your legal skills?
From a professional standpoint, every time I volunteer I learn something new about the law. It could be a different type of law or the opportunity to draft a different type of legal document. So, apart from being a way to help those who need access to legal services, pro bono work is also professionally enriching. Additionally, I meet lawyers of all practices while I’m volunteering, so it’s a good place to engage with others in the legal field.  

Are you a federal government or law firm attorney interested in volunteering with the Advice & Referral Clinic? Check out our list of participating agencies and firms, then contact your pro bono or volunteer coordinator to make arrangements. Questions? Contact the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center at [email protected].