From Washington Lawyer, June 2016
By Jeffery Leon
D.C. Bar Honors 2016 Award Winners for Outstanding Service
The D.C. Bar has announced the recipients of its 2016 annual awards, recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Bar sections, law firms, pro bono attorneys, and others in the legal community. The recipients will be honored on June 15 at the Celebration of Leadership: The D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW.
The D.C. Bar Strategic Planning Committee and the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Strategic Assessment Task Force will share this year's Frederick B. Abramson Award for their significant contributions to the Bar. The Strategic Planning Committee, convened in 2014 by then-D.C. Bar President Brigida Benitez, developed "D.C. Bar 2020," which outlines the Bar's strategic priorities and objectives for the next five years.
Guided by then-Pro Bono Committee Chair Jim Sandman of the Legal Services Corporation, the Pro Bono Center Strategic Assessment Task Force initiated a comprehensive study to assess the work of the Pro Bono Center, identify gaps in legal services, and implement a five-year plan. It is the Pro Bono Center's first evaluation of its overall programming and creation of a new strategic plan since 1992.
The District of Columbia Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Digest, a one-of-a-kind resource containing 35 years of significant published and unpublished probate decisions of the D.C. Superior Court and the D.C. Court of Appeals, has been chosen as Bar Project of the Year. The electronic digest is published by the D.C. Bar Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section.
The Section of the Year Award will be presented to the D.C. Bar Litigation Section for its strong work over the past year, doubling to 14 the number of programs in which it served as primary sponsor. The Litigation Section sponsors a subsidy program offering reduced fees for CLE classes for attendees from legal services providers. It also has provided financial support for the annual Youth Law Fair and the D.C. Cup Moot Court Competition.
DLA Piper LLP has been named Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year for contributing 14,700 hours to pro bono service, or 8 percent of its D.C. office's total billable hours in the past year. A total of 126 lawyers at the firm performed pro bono work.
Roland C. "Rollie" Goss, managing shareholder at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., and Jeffrey M. Sherman of the Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Sherman are the co-winners of the 2016 Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award.
Goss has dedicated 25 years of his career to helping abused and neglected children and their families through his pro bono work with the Children's Law Center (CLC). He has handled approximately 35 adoption and guardianship matters through CLC. Sherman has served as director of the Bankruptcy Assistance Center at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia since 2013, demonstrating a strong commitment to providing pro bono representation for indigent clients in eviction and foreclosure cases.—J.L.
William R. "Billy" Martin, a principal at Miles & Stockbridge, PC, provided the opening remarks on May 6 as the D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service presented its 2016 Practice 360º | A Day for Lawyers & Law Firms. Martin shared stories about running a small firm and dealing with high-profile clients. He also offered tips for running a firm: Outsource work when necessary, be tech- and social media-savvy, and embrace change. Most importantly, he said, "Take care of yourself, have someone there to talk to, and take care of your clients." For full event coverage, visit www.dcbar.org/practice360.—J.L.
8 D.C. Judges, LCE's Berger Honored at Judicial Reception
On April 21 the D.C. Bar celebrated the exemplary work of judges in the District of Columbia at its 2016 Judicial Reception at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington, drawing a large crowd of distinguished legal professionals.
D.C. Bar President Tim Webster delivered the opening remarks, followed by his introduction of this year's judicial honorees—members of the bench who have retired or taken senior status in the past year.
Special recognition were given to six judges of the D.C. Superior Court, including Judges Harold L. Cushenberry Jr., Herbert B. Dixon Jr., Diana Harris Epps, Karen A. Howze, Ann O'Regan Keary, and Michael J. McCarthy. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judges Richard W. Roberts and Reggie B. Walton also were recognized.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the D.C. Bar Foundation's 2016 Jerrold Scoutt Prize to Jennifer L. Berger, supervisory attorney at the Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE). In her role at LCE, Berger has dedicated 10 years of service advocating for elderly citizens in housing issues and working to improve the quality of life for low-income seniors in the District.
"I am honored to receive the Scoutt Prize, which I accept on behalf of the low-income District tenants that [LCE] serves, who, as with all tenants, have a right to decent, safe, and accessible housing," Berger said.
Named in honor of the founding partner of Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger LLP, the Scoutt Prize is awarded to public interest attorneys who have spent a significant portion of their career providing legal services to the District's disadvantaged residents.
"This year's judicial reception hit the mark, bringing the bench and Bar closer together to honor D.C. judges who have devoted their careers to justice and the rule of law," Webster said. "It was well attended, with an informal atmosphere that fostered intermingling and great conversations."—J.L.
Dues Season Is Underway; Renew Your License By July 1
The D.C. Bar dues season is underway allowing members to renew their D.C. law licenses online. Payment is due on July 1. Members are also able to join or renew memberships in the D.C. Bar sections and make donations to support the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center.
All members have received a renewal notification to their e-mail address on file. If you did not receive this message, the D.C. Bar may not have your correct contact information. Please contact us to update your member profile.
For those who did not renew online, a physical renewal form was mailed at the end of May. Dues are $295 for active members, $163 for inactive members, and $142 for judicial members. Payments not received or postmarked by July 15 will be assessed a $30 late fee.
Board of Governors Approves Bar's 2016–2017 Budget
On April 12 the D.C. Bar Board of Governors approved the Bar's proposed 2016–2017 budget as recommended by the Budget Committee.
The budget increases Bar members' annual dues from $280 to $295 for active members, and from $145 to $163 for inactive members. Dues for judicial members remained at $142.
The Bar is allocating $30 million for dues-funded activities, with personnel expense making up 61.9 percent of the expenditure budget. A 3 percent pool has been set aside for staff salary adjustments.
The Bar also is adding one full-time position—this position is for an assistant executive attorney (AEA) to provide assistance to members of the Hearing Committees and the Board on Professional Responsibility. The AEA conducts legal research for members, helps process motions, and provides drafting assistance.
The combined proposed budget of $7.5 million for nondues programs in fiscal year 2016–17 will result in a net excess of expense over revenue in the amount of $337,417, which will be covered through the use of the accumulated net assets of the nondues programs.
Full budget details were published in the April 2016 issue of Washington Lawyer and on the Bar's Web site at www.dcbar.org, keyword: Budget.
46 Firms Honored for Raising $5M to Fund Civil Legal Services
On April 11 the D.C. Access to Justice Commission honored 46 law firms that participated in its Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign in 2015, donating nearly $5 million in support of legal services providers serving low-income and at-risk communities in the District of Columbia.
"The leadership and generosity of these firms is helping to close the appalling justice gap in our city," said Peter Edelman, chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, at a reception held at Sidley Austin LLP. "These funds make it possible for vulnerable District residents to have an advocate by their side when they are facing legal crises."
The firms' $5 million contributions matched the amount allocated by the D.C. Council toward civil legal services in 2014.
Launched in 2010, the Raising the Bar campaign encourages firms to contribute a portion of their D.C. office revenue to legal aid organizations using a tiered system of giving: platinum, gold, and silver, or .11 percent, .09 percent, and .075 percent, respectively, of their annual revenue. This year, four new firms joined the Platinum level.
Keynote speaker Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, spoke about the need for legal services organizations and legal aid lawyers to be on the front lines in the work to ensure access to justice for all. Gupta said an estimated 63 million people qualify for free civil legal aid in the United States.
"[W]e all know that government does not—and cannot—do this work alone. At the Department of Justice, we rely on collaboration and support from so many stakeholders—including legal aid lawyers—to address these tough issues and to drive real reform," Gupta said.
The reception was attended by judges from the D.C. Court of Appeals, attorneys from many of the firms honored that evening, as well as representatives from several legal services organizations. Also present were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie and David Grosso, and D.C. Bar President Tim Webster.
To learn more about the Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign or to see a full list of participating firms, visit the Access to Justice Commission's Web site at www.dcaccesstojustice.org.—J.L.
15 D.C. Bar Members Graduate From 2016 Leadership Academy
Fifteen attorneys graduated from the 2016 John Payton Leadership Academy in April, the fourth batch of D.C. Bar members to finish the intensive training program to prepare them to become successful leaders throughout their careers.
Named in honor of the late John Payton, former president of the D.C. Bar and president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the Leadership Academy has produced 66 graduates since it launched in 2013.
This year's Leadership Academy opened on March 18, with succeeding sessions held on April 8 and 29. The time between sessions allowed the participants to absorb the knowledge gained during the first session and to integrate it into their careers.
During the April 8 session, Jill McCrory and Steve Swafford of Leadership Outfitters focused on participating in and leading effective meetings. The class took part in mock meetings to demonstrate different personalities and to see their effects in group interactions.
Nakia Waggoner, managing attorney at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, led an informative discussion on the Pro Bono Center and how attorneys can participate in its upcoming projects.
Part of the Leadership Academy curriculum is a day of pro bono service, and this year some of the participants volunteered at the Pro Bono Center's Advice & Referral Clinic at the Southeast location of Bread for the City while others served at the Northwest location.
The final session on April 29 included discussions on strategic thinking and planning and how leaders respond to challenges. Former D.C. Bar president Kim Keenan led the luncheon presentation "Lessons in Leadership," while Paul D. Meyer of the consulting firm Tecker International discussed leadership skills in action, delving into personality types and how one can leverage them to lead and collaborate more effectively.
Toward the end of the session, D.C. Bar Chief Executive Officer Katherine A. Mazzaferri shared with the class the different leadership opportunities available at the Bar.
At the ceremony and reception immediately following the last session, Mazzaferri presented the graduates with certificates of completion and recognized the volunteer faculty of the Leadership Academy.—J.L.
At a forum on April 27, president-elect candidates Guy Collier of McDermott Will & Emergy LLP (left) and Patrick McGlone of Ullico, Inc. discussed their plans for the Bar's presidency, if elected. Their ideas included seeking sustainable funding for the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center and enhancing access to justice. For a full list of initiatives, visit www.dcbar.org, keywords: Candidates' Forum.—J.L.
33 D.C. Firms Meet '40 at 50' Pro Bono Work Goal in 2015
A record number 33 law firms in the District of Columbia were honored on April 21 for their outstanding leadership in pro bono service in 2015, with at least 40 percent of their attorneys dedicating 50 hours or more to providing free legal representation.
The firms were recognized by the Judicial Conference of the District of Columbia Circuit's Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services during its 13th annual 40 at 50 Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast at the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.
Of the 33 firms that qualified for recognition, 14 reached 50 percent participation level, with the firms' attorneys contributing 50 hours or more of pro bono work. Five firms—Gilbert LLP; Goodwin Procter LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Ropes & Gray LLP—obtained 60 percent attorney participation. A full list of law firms can be found at www.dcd.uscourts.gov.
Among those who spoke at the recognition breakfast were Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Amy Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and Legal Services Corporation president Jim Sandman.—J.L.
In Listening Project, D.C.'s Poor Identify Barriers Out of Poverty
Much has been written and discussed about the unmet legal needs of the District of Columbia's poor and disadvantaged residents, but what do people living in poverty actually need the most help with and what other problems do they constantly worry about?
The DC Consortium of Legal Services Providers, which includes the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, actively sought input from low-income people themselves about the struggles they face, speaking directly to 590 residents. Among the findings: almost two-thirds of respondents said loss of housing or homelessness was a constant fear. Of those who needed legal help in the past two years, only 11.3 percent tried to find a lawyer.
On April 7 the Consortium discussed in depth the results of its Community Listening Project, a three-and-a-half-year effort, at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Annual PARTnership Luncheon at Covington & Burling LLP.
Faith Mullen, assistant clinical professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law who served as project manager for the Listening Project, said the findings were both "humbling and sobering." Mullen said the project is crucial in helping the legal community to understand "why people don't come to [lawyers]" for help.
"We wanted to hear about what makes life difficult, or unfair, or thwarts people from reaching their goals, particularly those problems that do not readily fall into traditional legal categories," wrote Mullen and Enrique Pumar, chair of the Sociology Department at Catholic University who served as principal investigator for the Listening Project, in the Consortium's report released on April 4.
The report is based on data collected through 20 focus groups with member of the community as well as face-to-face survey responses.
Access to and being able to continue to afford adequate housing was a pervasive concern among respondents, with close to 60 percent of them saying they were worried about not having housing at all and 36 percent not feeling safe at their current place. Thirty percent of the respondents were homeless.
Access to legal assistance also was identified as a major barrier for low-income D.C. residents. The majority of those who tried to seek legal help for their problems said cost kept them from finding a lawyer. Approximately 80 percent of respondents said lawyers are not affordable, and only 5 percent identified legal advice as the kind of help that low-income people need most.
The PARTnership Luncheon panel also included Patty Mullahy Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless; Aja Taylor, advocacy director of Bread for the City; David Steib, language access director at Ayuda; and Chinh Q. Le, legal director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and cochair of the Consortium.—J.L.
Reach Jeffery Leon at email@example.com. You can also follow Jeffery on Twitter at @JLeonDCBar.