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ABA Honors Pro Bono Center with 2016 Harrison Tweed Award

By Jeffery Leon

August 5, 2016

Monika Varma and Annamaria Steward accept the Harrison Tweed Award

The American Bar Association (ABA) has named the District of Columbia Bar as the 2016 recipient of its Harrison Tweed Award for the long-term excellence demonstrated by the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center in its efforts to increase access to justice.

The Bar received the award on August 5 during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Presented by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the award recognizes bar associations for their extraordinary achievements to improve the availability of legal services to vulnerable people in their communities.

"The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center has worked to identify gaps in the District's legal service delivery system and develop programs to increase access to justice," the ABA said in announcing the Bar's selection. "Given the breadth of services provided, the range of issues addressed, and the number of individuals assisted annually, the District of Columbia Bar, through the work of its Pro Bono Center, is a most worthy recipient of this year's Harrison Tweed Award."

Established in 1988 initially as a lawyer referral service that placed a small number of pro bono cases with local law firms, the Pro Bono Center has grown to become the largest provider of pro bono legal assistance in the District, offering the widest range of services to clients.

Each year the Pro Bono Center recruits, trains, and supports volunteer lawyers to provide free legal information, resources, or brief advice and/or full representation to thousands of individuals, as well as to nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Last year alone, the Pro Bono Center touched the lives of nearly 20,000 D.C. residents.

Pro Bono Center Executive Director Monika Kalra Varma said the Center hopes the award will "galvanize even more lawyers to walk with us to narrow the access to justice gap." "Standing next to every person we serve is a pro bono attorney who provides legal assistance. This award is a testament to their service and commitment to come back, often month after month and year after year, to serve," Varma said.

Tim Webster, immediate past president of the D.C. Bar, also thanked the ABA "for bestowing this premiere award on the strength of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's work." Added Webster: "The Pro Bono Center has a sustained record of service [that] has helped to create one of best pro bono cultures in the United States. The Pro Bono Center leverages lawyers in all practice types and settings to volunteer their time to its innovative and collaborative programs."

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center is an independent, nonprofit organization supported entirely by voluntary contributions.