Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 43

THE LEARNING CURVE

Time to Step Up
and Serve
By Josephine Bahn

E

arlier this year I shared some of
the mistakes I've made as a pro
bono attorney. Trust me, the
mistakes are still coming, but I've
gotten more confident about
walking my colleagues through
sharing their computer screens,
practicing in courts that refuse
online filings, and obtaining client
signatures despite frustrating
delays within the postal service.

While I continue to learn, grow, and develop as
a banking attorney by day and housing, family,
and small claims attorney by night, I feel compelled to write about the high need for pro
bono attorneys.
Last year, some 30,000 cases were filed in D.C.
Superior Court's Landlord and Tenant Branch.
Approximately 90 percent of landlords were
represented. Tenants? Well, 25,000 cases had
unrepresented defendants. That was before the
pandemic. With COVID-19, evictions are on
pause for now, but legal services providers are
preparing for a deluge of filings once the moratoriums are lifted.
As I write this, there are still measures in
place to prevent evictions; courts are slowly
reopening, albeit online; and my entire office
is still at home. But legal services providers
have seen an uptick in family law cases
(divorce, domestic violence, and other matters)
as well as tenant claims related to living
conditions.
I've used the four corners of this section before
to express how much a young lawyer can
benefit from doing pro bono work. Not only

does it impact your community and your
client, but it also improves your legal skills.
Whether it's preventing an eviction, filing a
temporary restraining order against a former
spouse, or obtaining compensation for a
harmful product, the pro bono work you do
and the time you give really matter.
Pro bono work also has a major impact on your
practice and skills-based development. The
skills you gain - drafting discovery, prepping
for oral argument, getting over your fear
of public speaking, learning how to admit
evidence during hearings, first-chairing a trial,
negotiating settlement with opposing counsel
- are all important and transferrable, and they
make you a better lawyer and advocate. I was
once paired with an attorney who was 10
years my senior. She wanted to brush up on
her litigation skills as she transitioned to a
mostly transactional law practice. By taking on
a custody case with a co-counsel, she did just
that while providing excellent legal advice and
thoughtful representation to a client who really
needed it.
Given the current circumstances, I must make
a larger call for attorney volunteers and remind
folks why they became lawyers in the first
place - to be helpers and problem solvers.
National organizations are tackling the legal
services gap differently during this pandemic.
The American Bar Association stood up a committee to evaluate the effects of the coronavirus
on the profession and to help mobilize pro bono
efforts. Its Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out
of the 2020 Pandemic, chaired by former D.C. Bar
President James J. Sandman, has been working
since March to identify critical legal needs, make
recommendations to address those needs, and
help mobilize volunteer lawyers and legal professionals for people who need help.
To put ideas into action, the ABA Young
Lawyers Division's Disaster Legal Services

I must make a larger call for
attorney volunteers and remind
folks why they became lawyers
in the first place - to be
helpers and problem solvers.
Program teamed up with Paladin, a software
provider that streamlines pro bono case management, to launch the first-ever national
disaster relief pro bono portal this past April.
This portal is sortable, giving would-be pro
bono counsel the opportunity to sign up for
cases to serve those affected by COVID-19 as
well as any current or future natural disasters.
There are also opportunities with the D.C. Bar
Pro Bono Center to help with matters that run
the gamut, from small claims and landlord-
tenant disputes to family law. The Pro Bono
Center recruits, trains, and mobilizes volunteer
attorneys to take on cases that aid individuals
living in poverty who are at risk of losing their
homes, livelihoods, or families. You can engage
through your firm or on your own. Check out
all of the options, both transactional and litigation-based, at dcbar.org/pro-bono to find one
that fits you and your practice.
There is so much need for pro bono legal
services right now, so I hope you'll join me and
take a case or two.
Josephine (Jo) Bahn is an attorney in enforcement
at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Bahn also serves as the D.C. Bar's Under 36
Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates and will
chair the ABA Young Lawyers Division in 2022-23.

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 43


http://www.dcbar.org/pro-bono

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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