Washington Lawyer - November/December 2022 - 47

THE PRO BONO EFFECT
'I Don't Have What It Takes to Do
Pro Bono' . . . and Other Myths
By Adrian Gottshall
T
here is a dire need for pro
bono attorneys to represent
individual clients in court,
especially in the District of
Columbia, where attorneys charge
the highest average hourly rate of
any jurisdiction in the country.
On top of that, nearly one in six D.C. residents
(about 111,000 people) live below the federal
poverty line ($27,750 for a family of four).
Therefore, many D.C. residents cannot afford to
hire an attorney even for high stakes matters
involving their children, their homes, and their
livelihoods.
This long-standing disparity creates a severe
power imbalance in the courtroom. Despite
the need that exists, some attorneys are hesitant
to engage in pro bono representation,
perhaps because they don't understand that
they are already qualified to volunteer. Here,
the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center dispels some
common misconceptions about representing
clients on a volunteer basis.
Myth 1: Pro bono service requires special subject
area expertise. In most cases, a law degree and
legal training are enough to start volunteers on
the path to successfully represent a client. If
attorneys lack expertise in a certain area of law,
the Pro Bono Center enables them to quickly
gain the knowledge they need to provide competent
representation.
The Pro Bono Center provides extensive support
to volunteers, including on-demand
training videos, a sample pleadings bank, and
expert mentors. With the support of experienced
mentors, even attorneys volunteering
for the first time in a new practice area can
enjoy the extraordinary experience of empowering
a client. Additionally, the Center manages
probono.net/DC, which is
an online resource for training
materials and sample pleadings.
Myth
2: Pro bono is just for law
firm attorneys. Often, people
think they must work at a big
law firm to engage in pro bono
service. The Pro Bono Center
provides volunteer opportunities
for everyone, regardless of
an attorney's place of employment.
The Center has the right
case type for solo, small firm,
retired, government, and
recently graduated attorneys.
For example, last year federal government
lawyers handled more than 60 pro bono litigation
cases in their individual capacities through
the Pro Bono Center.
Myth 3: Pro bono representation will impede
professional development opportunities within
my firm. Pro bono cases are excellent professional
development opportunities. They
provide the chance to develop client interviewing
and counseling skills, courtroom experience,
motions practice, and negotiations
know-how. If the case proceeds to trial, the pro
bono attorney will conduct direct and crossexaminations,
opening statements, and closing
arguments. Many volunteer attorneys have
described their pro bono cases as the most
rewarding professional development opportunities
of their careers.
Myth 4: Pro bono work is expensive. I have to
pay for litigation expenses and filing fees. The
overwhelming majority of pro bono clients are
eligible for filing fee waivers due to their limited
incomes. Additionally, with preapproval, the
Pro Bono Center can often cover litigation costs
that are necessary for lawyers to pursue the
case fully and competently. The Center
requests attorneys employed by larger law
firms to consult their in-house pro bono coordinator
regarding any expenses that arise.
Myth 5: I have to cover my pro bono work with
my own malpractice insurance. The Pro Bono
Center provides malpractice insurance for its
volunteers. Although malpractice suits in this
context are extremely rare, the Center, nevertheless,
wants to make sure that volunteers are
protected.
Myth 6: I am an attorney without an active D.C.
bar license, so I am ineligible to represent pro
bono clients. In affiliation with a nonprofit organization
such as the Pro Bono Center, attorneys
who are inactive, retired, or licensed (and in
good standing) in another jurisdiction are often
eligible for pro bono practice. Attorneys interested
in practicing pro bono publico should
consult the requirements of D.C. App. R. 49(c)(9),
including the need for appropriate supervision
of an active D.C. Bar member.
Ready to get started? Interested attorneys can
complete the Pro Bono Center's volunteer
questionnaire at https://bit.ly/3ThyZrw.
Adrian Gottshall is a managing attorney at the
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. For any questions, reach
her at agottshall@dcbar.org.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 47
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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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