Presidents’ Reception Generates More Than $800,000

June 18, 2014

On June 17 the 22nd annual Presidents’ Reception was held welcoming Brigida Benitez as the Bar’s 43rd president and benefiting the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program.

“One of the best parts of this job has been a chance to work on pro bono service in the District, my hometown,” said outgoing Bar President Andrea Ferster before announcing that the reception had raised more than $800,000, which will constitute about a third of the Pro Bono Program’s annual budget. “Working together, we enable thousands of lawyers to make a difference in the lives of the most impoverished and also the most vulnerable residents of our community.”

James J. Sandman, Pro Bono Committee chair and former Bar president, followed with an update of the Pro Bono Program’s achievements in the past year. He said the program’s Advocacy and Justice Clinic provided full-service representation to 350 people, the Saturday Advice and Referral and Immigration Clinics served 1,400 clients, the program’s four resource centers at the D.C. Superior Court served 6,500 clients, and the Community Economic Development Project matched 60 nonprofit organizations with pro bono counsel and trained 1,700 pro bono executives and staff in legal matters related to their operations. In addition, six new apps dealing with online interviews that follow the model of Turbo Tax were launched.

“I believe the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program is the strongest program in the United States,” Sandman said. “I say that because of the breadth and quality of the services it offers to clients who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Because of the variety of the opportunities, training, and support it offers to lawyers who want to do pro bono work, and because of the strength of the pro bono culture that permeates our Bar and fuels the program.”

Sandman also took the time to remember Laura N. Rinaldi, a managing attorney for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, who passed away in 2013. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award was renamed in her honor this year.

“She was a passionate and effective advocate for her clients. She was a leader and an innovator,” Sandman said. “Laura’s name will always be associated with the highest ideals of our Bar.”

Benitez then gave closing remarks in which she said she was “proud to be coming in as president of a Bar that has a pro bono program with so many innovative clinics, resource centers, and programs that serve thousands of D.C. residents every year.”

“The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program is a pillar of our community and a model nationally,” she said.