News

Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year: Daniele Schiffman

By Jeffery Leon

June 7, 2017

Daniele Schiffman, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Photo credit: Nicole Harkin

Daniele M. Schiffman, a senior litigator at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, says she’s always believed that people have a “duty to make the world a better place.” Throughout her career, she’s worked to ensure that her pro bono work remains a priority, completing 618 hours of pro bono service in 2016.

For her tremendous efforts to serve low-income clients, Schiffman will receive the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award at the D.C. Bar Celebration of Leadership on June 14. Schiffman will be honored alongside Daniel Smith of Kilpatrick Townsend LLP.

The award recognizes the exceptional commitment of a lawyer serving low-income clients in the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Bar spoke to Schiffman about her service and what drives her.

What drew you to law?

I always had an interest in law and public policy. In high school, I was on the debate team, and I went to Columbia for graduate school in public policy. After graduate school, I worked for the government for a few years, but I found myself missing something. I spent a lot of time with lawyers and found them to be intelligent, intellectual, and interesting people, and I decided to pursue a career in law.

I went to American University’s Washington College of Law and found out that I loved the work. I also found that there was great overlap between law and public policy so I could use both degrees to do the kind of good in the world that I wanted to do.

What drew you to pro bono service?

I’ve always believed that it is our duty to make the world a better place. I think this is true for all individuals, but especially true for lawyers, where our unique skill set can truly make a difference in the lives of individuals. One of the things [that] drew me to Skadden was the firm’s strong commitment to pro bono work.

Skadden offers its associates the chance to participate in a six-month rotation at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. I participated in the loaned associate program during one of my first years at Skadden and had an amazing experience. I worked primarily on landlord and tenant cases, and after I returned to Skadden I decided to keep doing this type of work in whatever capacity I could. I am now one of the co-heads of our Housing Impact Project, which seeks to leverage the firm’s pro bono efforts to provide legal services for families.

How is it working with Skadden on pro bono service?

Skadden has been extremely supportive of all the pro bono work I have done over the years. The head of our office, Mitch Ettinger, is incredibly dedicated to everyone taking on pro bono work. Over the years the firm has provided numerous opportunities for me to take on pro bono work in different ways. I have worked on criminal appeals, Supreme Court amicus briefs, Innocence Project cases, and housing cases. We have lawyers who work on cases involving wrongful convictions, animal rights, domestic violence, and guardian ad litem. Skadden supports whatever kind of pro bono work you may be interested in.

What is your most meaningful experience?

One of my favorite types of cases to work on are affirmative housing conditions cases, where I can help a tenant bring a case against their landlord to have housing code violations addressed. I like these types of cases because they empower tenants to take control of the situation and hold landlords accountable.

I live in the District and I believe I have a duty to help those around me. There is a huge housing crisis here and I want to help the people who are most in need right here in our own city. Housing is a fundamental need. How do you function without housing? And it’s a place where the help of an individual, especially a lawyer, can make a huge difference in the life of a client. All it requires is a little bit of knowledge and some hard work and dedication.

How does it feel to be honored with the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award?

I am truly humbled and honored to win this award. It feels amazing. I love the work that I do, and I am happy to be recognized for it.

To me, this award is really about the people I work with. There are, of course, the clients that I help. I do this work for them. But there are two other groups of people that keep me doing this work. The first are the amazing people in the legal services community. The people that I have worked with at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, Bread for the City, Children’s Law Center, and Legal Aid are the smartest, kindest, most generous people I know in the District. They always make time to answer my questions and provide support and advice on my cases.

The other group of people are the associates I work with at my firm, especially those on the Housing Team with me. I love taking on new cases because of the people I help and because of the people I work with. I would not have won this award without the support of my colleagues at Skadden and in the legal services community in the District.


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