Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36

MEMBER
THE
PRO SPOTLIGHT
BONO EFFECT
Biles continues to advocate for Museum Square residents, attending
building meetings, providing updates, and answering residents'
questions, as well as jumping in whenever a new challenge arises, such
as a recent situation in which the building closed the basement to
tenants, interrupting tenant association meetings. Biles and his team
explored tenants' rights to use common spaces in the building, and in the
interim, welcomed residents to use spaces at Arnold & Porter for meetings
and events.

*

To help the greatest number of people, Biles
takes a large-scale approach to his pro bono
work. He likes to work on cases that involve
multiple tenants, and he collaborates with
local legal services providers and others that
provide advocacy and support for the District's
low-income and vulnerable populations.

Biles recognized early on that in housing cases, engaging tenant associations and their leaders is key. "In most buildings we can get leadership,
and we don't need a lot," says Biles. "But when they do step in, by God
they'll lead and bring their troops along!"
"Blake starts with optimism and works his way from there," says Hennessy.
"He's methodical, meticulous, and an extremely valuable resource to
tenant groups and residents in the city."
The Museum Square situation is ongoing, as plans to redevelop the site
have been placed on hold, and residents are keeping close contact with
the attorneys and local legal services organizations. Watson says the legal
assistance provided by Biles and Arnold & Porter gave residents an incredible peace of mind. "I could see that he wanted to be involved and help
us, and he's still hanging in there with us," Watson says.

MORE PARTNERSHIPS, MORE IMPACT
To help the greatest number of people, Biles takes a large-scale approach
to his pro bono work. He likes to work on cases that involve multiple
tenants, and he collaborates with local legal services providers and others
that provide advocacy and support for the District's low-income and
vulnerable populations. Biles traces this approach to his previous pro
bono and volunteer work, including serving with the Legal Counsel for
the Elderly and the Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). Back
then he realized that it was better to address problems at their roots, as
well as to leverage all partners to help on the case.
"I'm a great believer of the more we can do, the better, even just a
building at a time," he says.
This idea came into play in one of his earliest housing cases while at
Arnold & Porter. Brought in to assist an associate representing a Latinx
client who lived in terrible housing conditions in a Mount Pleasant
building, Biles noticed that many of the other residents were seeking help
as well, with several different legal aid organizations assisting them.
"They didn't need us to help just this one person; there was a systemic
issue here," recalls Biles. "I was with a Big Law firm, and we could afford
36 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

to jump in and ask why 20 residents were in Landlord Tenant Court,
with their only common denominators being poor people of color
and immigrants."
The case introduced Biles to tenant rights and housing advocacy work.
It also put him in contact with local legal services organizations, which
brought him up to speed on the city's robust regulations and strong
tenant protections. Biles recognized early on that legal aid organizations
formed the frontline in ensuring that people are able stay in their homes.
"You can learn by talking to the experts, and groups like the Legal Aid
Society and Bread for the City have experts," says Biles.
"Blake contributes on a number of levels," says Daniel Cantor, Arnold &
Porter's Pro Bono Committee chair. "He's doing important work himself,
but also recognizing that it couldn't be done without these incredible
organizations that he's partnering with."
Two months into the Mount Pleasant case, Biles realized that he needed
more assistance and brought in lawyers from Arnold & Porter, including
real estate, bankruptcy, zoning, and tax attorneys. "It was a terrific opportunity to get others involved," Biles says.
Hannah Lieberman, legal director of the Washington Lawyers' Committee
for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and former executive director of NLSP,
says Biles is not only a good partner but also an inspiring mentor to attorneys new to pro bono work.
"His attentiveness to training and guiding less experienced lawyers, particularly those who choose to do public interest work, has helped build
a cadre of sophisticated and highly capable housing lawyers who work
tirelessly to ensure that adequate shelter is available to all, irrespective
of income," Lieberman says.

'THE RIGHT THING TO DO'
Patricia Mullahy Fugere, executive director of the Washington Legal Clinic
for the Homeless, says Biles is committed to a more just and inclusive
community. "I think that people getting involved in pro bono can see
Blake as a great model of someone who had the courage to venture into
unfamiliar territory surrounded by people who were knowledgeable,"
Fugere says. "You don't have to have a lifelong history of doing a particular kind of work to take it on pro bono. Blake took it on and really finds
joy in this work and helping clients."
Racine wants to see more lawyers follow in Biles's footsteps. "D.C. is in an
affordable housing crisis, and low-income people and people of color are
at a disadvantage. We need more excellent attorneys to provide pro bono
support to D.C. residents," Racine says. "I urge lawyers to step up and lend
a hand in these meaningful matters."
Retirement from pro bono work is not yet on his horizon, Biles says, especially since the need for civil legal services is so high in the District and he
has the time as well as the support of Arnold & Porter to provide those
services.
He echoes Racine's call for more attorneys to dive into pro bono service
and help in any way they can. "You can learn this. I learned by doing, and
over time it became more and more," Biles says. "It's not complicated.
I didn't have an epiphany to do this; I just went to work. The reward for
me is helping D.C. residents," he adds. "I believe in doing pro bono work
because it's the right thing to do."



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Going Above and Beyond feature
On Safer Ground feature
Casa Ruby Profile
Pro Bono Effect
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Going Above and Beyond feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - On Safer Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Casa Ruby Profile
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 38
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover4
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