Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 6

FROM OUR PRESIDENT

Discover the Power of One

I

must confess that I have an obsession
with George Bailey, the fictional hero played
by Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life.
George Bailey has long been a part of my
holiday DNA. I grew up in a small Midwest
town - the Bedford Falls of Illinois - and
when December rolled around, I was in front
of the TV like so many others, mesmerized
by the black-and-white screen classic. When
I became an adult, George Bailey continued
to be part of my life and was the centerpiece
of my remarks at my first in-house pro bono
awards event. After that ceremony, one of
my partners dubbed his award statuette his
"George Bailey," and hence that annual event
earned the title the George Bailey Pro Bono
Awards.

Connect
with Susie:
shoffman@dcbar.org

"Attorneys often
wonder how
much of an
impact we can
have representing
one person."

WASHINGTON LAWYER

A wayward angel, Clarence, appears as George
is about to jump. Following up on George's
statement that he wished he'd never been
born, the angel shows him what the world
would have been like without George Bailey . . .
and it's not pretty. George gets the chance to
see that he did indeed make a positive difference in the lives of many and, of course, he
returns home with the realization that he
indeed has a wonderful life.
George is the prototypical unsung hero. In
this issue of Washington Lawyer, we are able to
"sing" about several previously unsung heroes
- a group of pioneers who made it possible for
federal government attorneys to do pro bono

Photo: Joe Shymanski

6

Offering multiple lessons, It's a Wonderful Life is
a gift that keeps on giving, and it has particular
relevance for our November/December pro
bono issue. The movie symbolizes the importance of the "unsung hero" and illustrates the
broad impact that one individual can have -
what I call "the power of one." In a pivotal scene,
George Bailey stands on a bridge on a snowy
Christmas Eve contemplating suicide. George
is facing a financial crisis at his savings and loan
business in the small town of Bedford Falls. He
compares his life to that of his younger brother,
Harry, who is a decorated World War II hero.
George stayed home during the war to run
his father's business, helping post-Depression
families realize the American dream of
homeownership.

*

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

work; the firm and corporate counsel who
made nonprofit Casa Ruby's uplifting work
possible; and tenant rights advocate Blake Biles.
As we highlight the contributions of these
individuals, we recognize that thousands more
D.C. Bar members contribute numerous pro
bono hours and that attorneys who work full
time at legal services providers are slogging it
out in the trenches on a daily basis. These are
our George Baileys and we salute them!
This issue also examines the imbalance of
power between landlords and tenants at the
Landlord Tenant Court and focuses on the need
for increased representation of tenants and
other individuals with matters in D.C. Superior
Court. When landlords sue to evict tenants in
the District (which they do in 31,000 cases
annually), 95 percent of landlords are represented, whereas more than 90 percent of
tenants show up to court without legal help.
In the Domestic Relations Branch of the family
court, 80 percent of litigants are unrepresented.
There has been a huge need for pro bono work
in the District for a long time, and that need has
grown as the city has become more and more
gentrified. The Washington Post reported on
March 19 of this year that Washington, D.C.,
experienced the highest intensity of gentrification of any city in the United States, with 40
percent of its low-income neighborhoods
becoming gentrified between 2000 and 2013.
In "Delivering Justice: Addressing Civil Legal
Needs in the District of Columbia," the D.C.
Access to Justice Commission reported that:
Despite dramatic changes in the economy
over the past 10 years, poverty postrecession remains largely the same as it was
pre-recession. Nearly 1 in 6 D.C. residents,
about 110,000 individuals, live below the
Federal poverty line; 32,000 of these residents are children - 26% of D.C. children
live in poverty.
And in case you don't know the federal poverty
line, it's $25,750 for a family of four. Given that the
median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the District is now $2,000, some 18,000
households spend 80 percent of their income
on rent. Approximately 40,000 D.C. residents
spend more than 50 percent of their income
on housing, and 8,000 are homeless.



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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