Morgan Monroe: Pro Bono Work Is Not Optional to Me

By Katherine Lugo

October 29, 2019

DC Bar Pro Bono Center Volunteer of the Week Header

Morgan Monroe
Morgan B. Monroe, an associate at WilmerHale LLP, is motivated by her love of southeast D.C. to volunteer at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic. In this fourth DC Pro Bono Week installment celebrating attorneys who volunteer, Monroe shares what helping her Southeast neighbors means to her and how pro bono service is an exciting way for young attorneys to learn about different areas of the law. 

How long have you volunteered at the Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic? 

My law firm, WilmerHale, has a very serious commitment to pro bono work. During my first two months at the firm, we sponsored the Advice & Referral Clinic at the Southeast location and I signed up to participate. I really enjoyed the clinic and have been going back consistently since December 2017. 

What do you most enjoy about volunteering at the clinic? 

I enjoy connecting with the residents in Southeast and helping them feel more empowered to face their legal challenges. I moved to southeast D.C. in December 2017, and I was looking for a tangible way to give back and make connections in my community. When we meet with clients, we learn a lot about their lives and where they come from. Most of them have been in Southeast for decades. 

Most of the clients at the clinic have really pressing deadlines such as court dates, eviction dates, or statute of limitation end dates that they are trying to resolve in just a few hours. The on-site expert mentors and D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center staff at the clinic really help you think of creative solutions to client issues, while still solving them in a condensed period of time. I also love that we typically have a social worker at the clinic to help offer a more holistic answer to some of the difficult questions clients are dealing with. 

One of my favorite things has been repeat clinic clients. There are times when I may see a client at multiple clinics. It’s bittersweet to know that I can help a person at multiple stages of their case, to help them with a continuing or new legal issue. They usually remember you and how you may have helped them in the past. You get to know people on a more personal level, so I like to catch up with them a bit before we have to get down to business.  

What motivates you to do pro bono work? 

To me, pro bono work is not optional. I have a responsibility to serve, and I choose to do that in a legal capacity. Community service is so important to bringing people together, especially in D.C., where the residents can feel worlds apart. My family raised me to make a difference where I can, and this is simply the avenue I have chosen to do so. I would not feel comfortable in my daily legal career without a very high commitment to pro bono service. 

Would you encourage more young associates to do pro bono work? 

Young associates should be excited to do pro bono work because of how much they will learn. My pro bono work has exposed me to aspects of the law I would never have experienced, from housing to sexual harassment to asylum law. If you start with the expectation that you will be committed to something outside of your job, that is not self-serving; it really does set the tone for the rest of your career. You may do it because it’s your responsibility, but there is no shame in also feeling good after providing the service.