Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 54

THE PRO BONO EFFEC T

Virtual Legal Services
in the Age of COVID
By Rebecca K. Troth

"The most important factor in survival is neither
intelligence nor strength but adaptability."
- CHARLES DARWIN

P

Even before we knew we would not be going
into the office for some time, the Pro Bono
Center staff needed to decide whether to hold
our monthly Advice & Referral Clinics at Bread
for the City's offices in Shaw and Anacostia the
second Saturday in March. We agonized about
the decision, given that scores of people have
lined up every month for 23 years to talk to
a lawyer. The clinics have no income restrictions and serve anyone with a civil legal issue
governed by D.C. or federal law (other than
immigration). We ultimately decided to cancel,
given the number of clients and volunteers

54 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

We were not completely unprepared for the
world of remote legal services. The Pro Bono
Center's Legal Information Help Line has
operated for 27 years and continues to provide
information over the phone to pro se litigants in
four languages. Our Advocacy & Justice and
Bankruptcy Clinics, which provide full representation in poverty law matters, have always conducted phone intakes with potential clients.
And since 2002, the Pro Bono Center has
managed Probono.net/dc and LawHelp.org/DC
on behalf of 39 D.C. legal services providers.
The LawHelp site hosts information and legal
resources, including fillable forms, for the
general public. Probono.net/dc contains
resource libraries, including training videos
and sample pleadings, for pro bono and
legal services attorneys serving clients with
family law matters, landlord-tenant disputes,
consumer claims, public benefits appeals,
and more. Responding to the urgent needs
emerging from the pandemic, the Pro Bono
Center has posted COVID-19 resources on both
sites. People with legal questions arising from
the pandemic will find up-to-date information
on the LawHelp.org/DC coronavirus page,
including links to information about the operating status of D.C. legal services providers
during the crisis.
The Pro Bono Center's other programs that
typically provide in-person services faced
more daunting challenges, but those were
quickly overcome as we pivoted to continue
serving the people in our community who rely
on us. After the D.C. Superior Court closed its
doors on March 15, we launched two dedicated phone lines to replace our on-site

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

Shankar Kulumani

roviding legal services during
a pandemic was not something the D.C. Bar Pro Bono
Center had in its sights when this
year began. We had plans for
improving and expanding our
programs and clinics, and none
of those plans included communicating virtually with our clients, our
volunteers, or the courts. But that
is exactly where we have found
ourselves in these past six months
- operating a virtual legal services
organization. As unexpected as
these changes have been, they
have taught us valuable lessons
about our ability to adapt and
reach our clients where they are.

who would be crowded into closed spaces. In
lieu of the clinics, Bread for the City staff posted
the Pro Bono Center's phone number on their
doors for people who came for help. That
was the beginning of the Pro Bono Center's
transformation to a remote legal services
organization.

D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Staff Attorney Christine
Kulumani adjusts to her new home office with
help from her cat Lily.
Landlord Tenant and Consumer Law Resource
Centers. When we needed to cancel our inperson Advice & Referral Clinics, we opened
another dedicated phone line to respond to
individuals with the civil legal matters typically
handled there. We provided the dedicated
phone line numbers to the court, as well as
advertised them widely across the community.
Between mid-March and the end of June, the
Pro Bono Center staff responded to 600 calls
from tenants and small landlords, 100 calls
from people with consumer/debt collection
issues, and 149 calls to the Advice & Referral
line. In place of our quarterly Immigration
Clinic in June, we set up another dedicated
phone line that operated from June 8 through
June 12. A Pro Bono Center bilingual intake
specialist connected 39 callers to expert volunteer immigration attorneys over the course of
the week.


http://www.Probono.net/dc http://www.LawHelp.org/DC http://www.Probono.net/dc http://www.LawHelp.org/DC

Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
ABA Delegates Corner
Calendar of Events
Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
The New Normal in Legal Education feature
On Shaky Ground feature
How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Speaking of Ethics
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Re-Envisioning the Bar Exam feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The New Normal in Legal Education feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Shaky Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - How the Pandemic Has Transformed Courts Feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Science of Why Clients Ignore Counsel's Advice feature
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Susan Biniaz
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Member Spotlight - Whit Washington
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September/October 2020 - Cover4
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