Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 46

THE LEARNING CURVE
Success Through Service
By Josephine Bahn
L
ooking at your year-end statistics,
how many hours of pro
bono work did you log? Did
you volunteer with an advice
and referral clinic or perhaps represent
a client? Were you able to
meet the public service goal you
set at the beginning of 2022?
On a smaller level, did you help a neighbor,
friend, or colleague troubleshoot an issue? Or
did you make time to mentor a junior lawyer
on the best way to issue discovery? I read this
somewhere: To be great, the pinnacle of a
lawyer, one must look to what they're doing
to grow, mentor, lead, and help those around
them. As author H. Jackson Brown put it, success
must be earned " based on service to
others, not at the expense of others. "
The best work I've ever done as a lawyer
happened during my clerkship, when I had the
chance to help local prosecutors obtain new
sentences for juvenile offenders who had
already served time longer than I'd been alive.
The work propelled and inspired me to continue
in service, first with the federal government
defending consumers against fraud and
banking-related harm, and now in a richly
rewarding pro bono practice where I get to
work on meaningful voter impact litigation that
shines a light on injustice in redistricting. But
I don't often talk about the case that has stuck
with me the most, one that wasn't a win and
where I wasn't counsel of record.
Leslie (name changed for anonymity) appeared
in the courthouse where I was clerking. Leslie
had pled guilty to armed robbery, and at sentencing,
the probation officer detailed all of the
systems that had let Leslie down. Leslie only
had a third-grade education, had small criminal
infractions in their teens and early 20s, and had
fallen into the wrong crowd.
After hearing heartfelt remarks from Leslie's
mom and siblings, the presiding judge sentenced
Leslie to 30 years in prison. Leslie was 25
years old, the same age as I was. Leslie's story
has stayed with me because I've often contemplated
whether one act - someone's intervention,
advocacy, or a policy shift somewhere
- could have created an opportunity for a
shot at success for Leslie instead of a long time
behind bars.
In addition to inadequate funding for public
defenders to represent clients like Leslie, we
have a civil legal justice gap. According to the
Legal Services Corporation's 2022 " Justice Gap "
report, an estimated 92 percent of low-income
Americans did not receive any or enough legal
assistance with their substantial civil legal
problems. Our neighbors need pro bono legal
services from lawyers at all stages of their
careers, and they need help now.
In previous columns I have written about how
pro bono legal work can help bridge the justice
gap, and at the same time provide young
lawyers valuable skills from taking a case or
two. There are big cases as well as small, discrete
opportunities for young lawyers to learn
and develop while taking on pro bono matters.
For short spurts of pro bono service that
you can do from your couch, check out the
American Bar Association's Free Legal Answers,
a project of its Standing Committee on Pro
Bono and Public Service. ABA Free Legal
Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic where
qualifying users post civil legal questions to be
answered by pro bono attorneys licensed in
their state.
I have personally answered questions in the
locations where I'm barred on topics covering
family law, housing issues, eviction, homeless46
WASHINGTON LAWYER * NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
ness and poverty, consumer rights, employment
and unemployment law, health and
disability matters, civil rights, income maintenance,
and juvenile and education law. A participating
lawyer can choose to tackle one or
all questions in the queue, depending on their
available time. I encourage you to volunteer to
answer a question about a civil legal issue in
your area. You can find out more information
at abafreelegalanswers.org.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center also has opportunities
to work with District residents on small
claims, landlord-tenant, family, bankruptcy, or
consumer law matters. The training for volunteers
is some of the best I have received, and
attorneys are always paired with a mentor who
actually answers your questions. Volunteer
lawyers can take on a matter by themselves or
with another lawyer. Visit dcbar.org/pro-bono
to find an opportunity that's right for you.
Josephine M. (Jo) Bahn is a construction law
and commercial litigation associate at Cozen
O'Connor. Bahn also serves as the D.C. Bar's Under
36 Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates and is
national chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division.
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Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022

Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Attorney Briefs
Taking the Stand
Disciplinary Summaries
On Further Review
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Speaking of Ethics
The Learning Curve
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 6
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Planting the Seeds: Pro Bono Helps Nonprofits Flourish
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Primer on D.C.’s New Debt Collection Law
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Eviction Writ Quashing: Last Line of Defense for Tenants
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Employment Law Implications of Dobbs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - How Immigration Can Help Solve the U.S. Pilot Shortage
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Ten Things You Might Have Forgotten Since the Pandemic
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - SPECIAL SECTION Young Lawyers Bring Passion to Public Interest Work
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 45
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 48
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 51
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - Cover4
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