Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 14
Hoffman has served on several boards of community and public interest
groups, including the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the
Washington Council of Lawyers, to name a few.
Hoffman recently spoke with Washington Lawyer about her background, past
and future efforts with the D.C. Bar, and dedication to helping others.
Tell us about your upbringing and background.
I grew up in a small town in Illinois. There was one movie theater and few
restaurants, so we had to be creative in entertaining ourselves. During high
school, our family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. My mother was a stay-athome mom for most of my childhood and always involved in some sort of
volunteer work. I credit her with instilling in me the need to give back to the
community. I sometimes accompanied her on volunteer outings. In college,
I volunteered with a local Head Start program in Bloomington, Indiana. I am
grateful for the grounding and values that my parents and small-town
Midwest upbringing helped to provide.
Do you have any siblings?
I have three brothers and two sisters. All of my siblings have STEM-related
careers, so as a lawyer, I am truly the outlier of the family!
When did you first become interested in law?
After my second year of college at Indiana University, I was trying to decide
on a career between law and social work. I interned at the juvenile probation
department in Fort Wayne, shadowing a social worker who served as the probation officer for offenders. I accompanied him on home visits, meetings with
offenders, and court hearings. During the court proceedings, it struck me that
the lawyer had the ability to have a greater impact on the outcome for the
client than the social worker did. Being a lawyer would give me the tools to
make a difference.
You attended George Washington University Law School. Tell us about
your time on campus.
It was exciting to be in Washington, D.C., and to take advantage of all that the
city has to offer. I was interested in ultimately doing some sort of legal services
or public interest work, so the number of these groups in Washington energized me.
You oversee the pro bono work of attorneys at Crowell & Moring. Tell us
why this type of work is important.
There is a huge unmet need for legal services for low-income individuals in our
community - what many call the "justice gap." Our legal services organizations
in the District do an admirable job of providing assistance to the underserved
populations, but even with those efforts, many individuals go unrepresented.
Pro bono work helps to narrow the justice gap. I have seen firsthand that pro
bono legal services can make the difference in a tenant avoiding eviction,
a domestic violence victim obtaining protection, or a disabled individual being
granted public benefits.
How do you get attorneys to understand the importance of doing pro
One of my primary motivational tools is sharing the stories of pro bono clients
and how legal representation has made a real difference in their lives. For
example, for many asylum clients, legal representation can actually mean the
difference between life and death because of the violence they would face in
their home country. I publish a quarterly in-house newsletter that shares many
of these stories with the hope of inspiring our attorneys to take on a pro bono
Any cases or clients that stand out or have shaped the lawyer you have
While working at Hogan & Hartson, I volunteered at My Sister's Place, a shelter
for domestic violence survivors. I took on a case for a woman who needed a
protection order against her ex-boyfriend who slashed her face. On the
morning of the hearing just outside the courtroom, she expressed second
thoughts about testifying in front of her ex-boyfriend. This was one of my first
court proceedings, and I was loaded and ready to go! I paused and gathered
myself. I knew that it wasn't my case; it was hers. I told her that the choice was
hers. We could ask to dismiss the case and go home. But if we moved forward,
I assured her that I would be by her side and would get her through the proceeding. She decided to go ahead with the hearing and testified with poise and
conviction. The judge issued the stay-away order. I had two takeaways: We are
here to serve our clients - we can counsel, but ultimately it's their decision
about whether and how a case moves forward. I also saw that the legal system
can be a tool for change and empowerment. It deepened my commitment to
pro bono work and better defined for me the client-lawyer relationship.
How did you first become involved with the D.C. Bar?
In the early 1990s, I was asked to serve on the Bar's Public Services Activities
Review Committee, which was tasked with reviewing the Bar's pro bono and
lawyer referral programs and making recommendations for possible restructuring; this process led to the current D.C Bar Pro Bono Center. Not too long after
my work on that committee, I served on the Nominations Committee and then
later for two terms on the Board of Governors.
What did you learn from these experiences serving at the Bar?
They afforded me the opportunity to work with talented leaders and observe
different leadership styles. I learned about the value of soliciting input from all
members of a working group and building consensus.
What will be your key initiatives as D.C. Bar president?
The primary reason I ran for D.C. Bar president was to promote pro bono work
among our members to improve access to justice for underrepresented populations. I hope to build on the commitment and initiative of [my predecessor] Esther H. Lim to increase pro bono efforts among all segments of the
Bar. During her presidency, Esther convened a Pro Bono Task Force in which
I am participating. I plan to continue that effort, implementing the recommendations of that task force. My second initiative is to explore ways that
the Bar and our members can work to improve and support civic education
efforts in D.C. public schools. This initiative would also build on a similar effort
by former Bar President Pat McGlone during his term. Finally, the year 2020
marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote. Working with the
Bar staff, we hope to plan some special events commemorating this important milestone.
The Bar is looking to engage law students and recent graduates. Any
plans on how the Bar can make progress in this area?
Our Chief Programs Officer Darrin Sobin has already been doing extensive
outreach to local law schools, making presentations and encouraging law
students to become members of certain Bar communities. I hope to accompany Darrin in the coming year as he conducts these programs to encourage
law students to become active early on.
What do you look forward to during your term as president of the Bar?
I look forward to learning new things and meeting new people. We have one
of the largest, most diverse, and talented integrated bars in the country. I am
enthused about reaching out to engage our members in the Bar's programs
and initiatives and encouraging them to take advantage of the many services
the Bar offers - and, of course, to get them involved in pro bono work!
What are some of the challenges you expect to face during your term?
A significant challenge will be finding a way to make a tangible difference in pro
bono involvement among our members. Over the years, many efforts by very
creative attorneys have been launched with this goal; making a concrete contribution in this area is a daunting task.
Washington Lawyer - June 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - June 2019
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Life After Disciplinary Action
Bar Business: Budget Report
Global & Domestic Outlook
Ask the Ethics Experts
Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Meet Susan M. Hoffman: 48th President of the D.c. Bar
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Regulation Counsel: Ensuring the Highest Ethical Standards
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 18
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Counsel: Acting on Misconduct Charges
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Life After Disciplinary Action
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-1
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-2
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-4
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-5
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - S-6
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Bar Business: Budget Report
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Rule Updates: Rule 49 on Pro Bono Attorneys
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Special Coverage: 2019 Judicial & Bar Conference
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - 48
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - June 2019 - Cover4