Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 11

FEATURE

"I had to very quickly do everything at once - prepare for the hearing
and arguments, communicate with the court, coordinate with chambers,
prep the client, and figure out a second platform for communicating
with my client during the remote hearing so that we could still speak
confidentially," Nanini says. "There's nothing really light about these
filings. FLAN is like the ER for family law. Our job is to quickly triage client
needs and serve them effectively and efficiently."
"Rapid response" is how Ronald Flagg, president of the Legal Services
Corporation and former D.C. Bar president, describes FLAN. Attorneys
volunteering with FLAN respond to referrals - even from clients in the
court - in just a few hours. "It's hard to imagine another [legal services]
format that would have permitted that [rapid response] under normal
operating circumstances," Flagg says.
"I think the program has been tailored to fit the precise need for rapid
availability of legal assistance," adds Flagg. "Coming up with a hotline
approach really was a remedy."

PIVOTING DURING A PANDEMIC
The idea behind FLAN dates back to at least 2013 when the D.C. Bar
Family Law Task Force issued a report recommending the use of unbundled legal services to help meet the need for representation in D.C.
Superior Court's Family Court. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center and the
Legal Aid Society, which were already providing free legal services
in family law matters, proposed in 2019 a collaboration with the DC
Affordable Law Firm to provide a more innovative, efficient solution for
helping litigants whose household income falls below 200 percent of
the federal poverty level. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Task Force, which Flagg
chairs, fully supported the proposal.
FLAN originally was set to open onsite at D.C. Superior Court, steps away
from where family law cases are heard, so FLAN lawyers could respond
quickly to clients' needs. And then the pandemic happened, and FLAN's
unveiling coincided with a citywide shelter-in-place order. FLAN quickly
pivoted to remote services and, as of mid-September, it has helped more
than 380 clients by providing free legal services and limited-scope representation in custody, child support, parentage, and divorce cases in the
Domestic Relations Branch.
"Since the pandemic began, we had to redo our intake process entirely
to make sure that we are available to our clients in other ways," says
Vanessa Batters-Thompson, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center's managing
attorney for FLAN. "We redid our intake process so that we are reaching
out to people by phone, video conferencing, and email to complete the
documents that we need to start a client representation and to make
sure that we can still provide top-quality services remotely."
FLAN also had to modify some procedures to comply with court requirements, including using e-signatures on various legal forms. "FLAN has
worked carefully to ensure that we are able to serve and meet the needs
of people who have limited digital capabilities," Batters-Thompson says.

"

Dennis Drenner Photographs

Nanini is one of the attorneys staffing the Family Law Assistance
Network (FLAN), a free and confidential legal service for emergency
family law matters launched in late March by the D.C. Bar Pro Bono
Center, the DC Affordable Law Firm, and the Legal Aid Society of
the District of Columbia as the coronavirus pandemic swept across
the country.

Our job is to quickly triage
client needs and serve them
effectively and efficiently.
JENADEE NANINI
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center

"One of the first things that we did was to reach out to the D.C. Bar's legal
ethics helpline to figure out what the ethics rules required of us - what
we had to have down on paper with a written signature versus what we
could do by carefully going through consent and other documents with
the client over the phone."
Additionally, FLAN attorneys had to navigate the digital divide facing
those who don't have access to desktop or laptop computers, Wi-Fi, or
smartphones. "If a client doesn't have any access to email, we go through
retainers by phone. Then we send a hard copy by mail. We've leveraged
the resources that the clients do have to provide the same services we
would provide at court, but using more old-style methods of communication versus sending texts or emails," Batters-Thompson says.
Francesca Gibson, senior associate at DC Affordable Law Firm, explains
that FLAN also works closely with the Superior Court's Family Court SelfHelp Center to determine how to assist litigants file pleadings online
when they don't have access to technology. "When we started, the SelfHelp Center would talk to litigants and get the information," Gibson says.
"The Self-Help Center would directly send us the contact information of
those people who needed assistance."
Referrals come through a central intake system. FLAN responds to those
referrals within one business day to provide immediate services. The
FLAN partner organizations rotate responsibility in assigning the primary
"on call" attorney of the day. If there is a conflict or overflow, the other
organizations are contacted to take the case.
"With family law cases, you often have multiple parties that all need representation," Batters-Thompson says. "So, it's important for us to observe
conflicts of interest and all the ethical requirements of attorneys. Case
information does not go to an organization until it runs a conflicts
check. We make sure the organizations do not share opposing party
information."

FILLING A CRITICAL VOID
According to the 2019 D.C. Access to Justice Commission report
"Delivering Justice: Addressing Civil Legal Needs in the District of
Columbia," 83 percent of plaintiffs and 93 percent of respondents in
divorce and custody cases appear in court pro se. Flagg points out that
many of these litigants are going into Family Court for the first time
without legal counsel. That experience can not only be frightening,

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

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WASHINGTON LAWYER

11



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Family Law Assistance Network feature
An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Qualified Immunity feature
Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Family Law Assistance Network feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Qualified Immunity feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 57
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 58
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 59
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 60
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 61
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 62
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 63
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 64
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 65
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 66
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 67
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover4
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