Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 49

THE PRO BONO EFFEC T
As a management-side employment attorney, I am largely conflicted out
of advising individual employees on employment matters. But that does
not mean I am not an advocate for employees. My goal in advising companies on employment matters is to help them foster workplaces where
employees feel supported, are valued, and have equal opportunities for
success. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Advice & Referral Clinic provides
an important path for me to help individuals who cannot afford a lawyer
reach that goal.
I was introduced to the Advice & Referral Clinic through my role as community outreach coordinator for the D.C. Bar Labor and Employment Law
Community. I have had the opportunity to not only serve as an employment law mentor at the clinic, but also to recruit my colleagues and
Community members to serve as well.
Mentors play an important role at the clinic. While we do not advise
clients directly, we provide subject-matter expertise to the attorney volunteers. Our support enables attorneys to give advice on issues that are
outside of their core practice areas and to feel confident in doing so.
I have heard mentors comment that the satisfaction of mentoring is twofold: In addition to helping clients, mentors are able to empower other
attorneys to help clients in more ways than they believed they could. It
is not uncommon to see the same mentors returning to the clinic every
month because it is such a rewarding experience.
The District of Columbia has some of the most comprehensive employee
protections in the country and boasts a wealth of online resources for
learning about workplace rights. A number of matters that I have seen
come through the clinic can be addressed by simply accessing one of the
D.C. government's online resources. However, many people in the community do not have access to these resources or know where to look to
find them. Employment law concerns are among the top four areas in
which people seek help from the clinic, and the Advice & Referral Clinic
is one of only a handful of places in the city people can turn to for free
legal help with those concerns. Pointing someone to the right website
or online form may feel like a small task for an attorney, but it can have a
very big impact on someone else's livelihood and well-being.
The opportunity to make an impact reaches far beyond employment
matters. The D.C. Code has 51 titles, and even attorneys are lucky if they
have mastered more than a few of them. For someone who does not
practice law, navigating complex code sections and legalese can feel
daunting, if not impossible. It is no surprise that so many people in
our community are not aware of the numerous ways in which they are
protected under the law. The Advice & Referral Clinic plays a crucial role
in ensuring that those who cannot afford expensive legal services are
not deprived of their rights simply because they are unaware of them.
Individuals come to the clinic seeking help with a host of matters under
both D.C. and federal law, including consumer law, housing, personal
injury, public benefits, probate, family law, bankruptcy, and employment.
Attorney volunteers and mentors with subject-matter expertise in these
areas are critical to the clinic's success.
Considering our busy personal lives, client commitments, and billablehour expectations, it can be hard for attorneys to find time to volunteer or
take on long-term pro bono matters. The Advice & Referral Clinic, which
takes place on the second Saturday of every month, provides the perfect
opportunity to give back by donating just five hours of the weekend to
the community - a minor commitment that has a major impact. To

enumerate that impact, the Advice & Referral Clinic serves about 1,500
individuals every year through walk-in clinics at Bread for the City locations in the northwest neighborhood of Shaw and the southeast neighborhood of Anacostia. In November 2019, the Shaw clinic served a record
number of 111 clients; it was so busy that the clinic had to close its doors
early due to the tremendous volume of clients.
Many of us do not realize how much of a difference we can make.
Lawyers who typically represent corporations may think they are automatically conflicted out or do not have the experience necessary to help
individual members of the community. But D.C. Rule of Professional
Conduct 6.5 provides exemptions to conflicts rules so lawyers can
provide short-term, limited legal services to clients through court and
nonprofit programs, such as advice and referral clinics, provided there
is no expectation of continuing representation and there are no known
conflicts of interest for the lawyer or the lawyer's firm. And subject-matter
skills are highly transferrable. A real estate litigator may not have experience in individual landlord-tenant law, but his or her skills in other types
of housing litigation can help to point clients to the resources they need
to defend themselves. Often, the solution is simply a matter of understanding the legal jargon contained in a form or letter.
Volunteering at the Advice & Referral Clinic really makes you see that
a seemingly small task can have a very big impact. I recall assisting with
a matter in which a client's claim for public benefits was denied based
on a clear error that could easily be clarified on appeal. The client was
fortunate to come to the clinic that Saturday because the deadline for an
appeal was the following Monday. We were able to explain the error and
help the client understand it, fill out the appeal form, and figure out
where to file it. It took less than 30 minutes of my time to help get the
benefits the client very much needed and was well qualified for.
This is not a unique example. The advice that attorneys provide at the
clinic often consists of determining whether clients need to file an appeal;
offering guidance on where and how to file claims; interpreting letters
from government agencies, employers, or landlords; and advising on the
resources available to help them respond. Many of these consultations
can take less than an hour, but they have a much longer lasting impact
for members of our community who do not have the ability to hire a
lawyer.
When we think back about the reasons we went to law school, we all
probably had a shared goal of helping people and having a positive
impact on the lives of others. We may not have had any idea what that
would look like at the time, but now, having practiced for some number
of years (even if just a few), the reality is that it is not difficult, nor does it
take much time, to make an impact. Discrete, time-limited service opportunities like the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's Advice & Referral Clinic help
us to continue working toward that goal.

The Advice & Referral Clinic currently needs mentors in
employment, family, torts, consumer, probate, public
benefits, and tax law. To learn more, contact Pro Bono Center
Managing Attorney Erik Goodman at egoodman@dcbar.org
or 202-780-2747.

MARCH/APRIL 2020

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WASHINGTON LAWYER 49



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
Women of Impact feature
The Race to End Roe feature
Solar Power Access Feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
Global & Domestic Outlook
Member Spotlight – Joesphine Wang
Member Spotlight - Fatemah Albader
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
Portraits of Suffrage's Overlooked Heroes
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Women of Impact feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 12
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 18
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - The Race to End Roe feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Solar Power Access Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Member Spotlight – Joesphine Wang
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Member Spotlight - Fatemah Albader
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 44
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Portraits of Suffrage's Overlooked Heroes
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 52
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2020 - Cover4
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