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Jeffrey M. Sherman: Pro Bono Work Is a Moral Obligation

By Kathryn Alfisi

June 14, 2016

For the past decade Jeffrey M. Sherman, a solo practitioner specializing in creditors' rights and bankruptcy issues, has put his legal expertise to pro bono use by participating in the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Bankruptcy Clinic. This twice-yearly training prepares volunteers to represent individuals filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions who fall within 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

The D.C. Bar will recognize Sherman's work with the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award on June 15 at the Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting. The award is named in honor of Rinaldi, a managing attorney for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, who passed away in 2013.

"The fact that this recognition—I hate to call it an award—is named after somebody who was so dedicated to public service makes it more special," Sherman said. "About ninety-nine percent of the time the good work, the time-consuming work, the hard work that pro bono attorneys put in goes unrecognized, unacknowledged, and becomes its own reward."

For Sherman, pro bono work is both a professional and a moral obligation, but not one that should be reduced to a professional burden. Instead, he believes it should be looked upon as an opportunity to expand your expertise and serve the community.

"The practice of bankruptcy law has provided me with a very comfortable professional existence and it provides a means for participation in a lot of highly varied sectors of the economy, whether it's intellectual property licensing, real estate development, government contracting, liquor licensing, landlord–tenant matters, and real estate issues," Sherman said. "It's given me a chance to have a very diverse practice, and in payment of that I feel like it's my professional and moral obligation to manifest my gratitude for what the bankruptcy practice has given me during the past 35-plus years."

In support of Sherman's nomination for this award, Judge S. Martin Teel Jr. of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia said that Sherman "has been a guiding force in ensuring that free legal advice is available to indigent parties in bankruptcy matters."

Judge Teel added that Sherman worked "tirelessly" with him and the Clerk's Office to establish the Bankruptcy Assistance Center, which provides legal advice to unrepresented parties in bankruptcy matters.

Despite being without the benefit of the resources a large firm can provide, Sherman completed 180 hours of pro bono service in addition to his 1,400 billable hours last year.

Join us in honoring the D.C. Bar Litigation Section at our Celebration of Leadership on June 15. The Bar's annual awards will be held at the Mayflower Hotel at 7 p.m.