Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 21

FEATURE
ANDREW MARKS
Law Offices of Andrew Marks PLLC
Created in 2005, the D.C. Access to
Justice Commission is charged with
identifying and addressing barriers
to the civil justice system for lowand
moderate-income District residents.
The commission's advocacy
for sufficient funding to support
access to civil legal aid - along with
support from Pinto, who chairs the
D.C. Council Judiciary and Public
Safety Committee, Council Chair Phil
Mendelson, and others - led to passage
of a revised budget providing
$31 million for the Access to Justice
Initiative in fiscal year 2024. " I believe
the Access to Justice Initiative is one
of the most effective government
programs supporting low-income
residents in the District because it leverages many additional benefits to
those in need, " Mendelson says.
Nancy Drane, executive director of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission,
says she was encouraged by the result. " It was wonderful to see all
segments of our legal community - and beyond - recognize that
access to legal assistance is a critical safety net service for the thousands
of District residents who face life-changing challenges like housing instability,
family violence, economic insecurity, family conflict, and more, "
Drane says.
'WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION'
While public funding for civil legal services is critical to increasing access
to justice, private sector efforts are also essential. One example is the D.C.
Access to Justice Commission's Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign, which
encourages local law firms of any size and even solo practitioners to support
legal services in the District. This year, 40 firms were recognized for
donating a record $7.3 million to more than 40 local legal services organizations
in 2022.
Andrew Marks, one of the founding members of the commission, was
instrumental in the campaign's design. While the Washington legal community
has always seen the value in supporting civil legal services for
indigent residents, law firms weren't always sure exactly how to get
involved or at what level, Marks says. The Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign,
launched in 2010, set achievable benchmarks for law firms to
aspire to.
Because the benchmarks are percentages of firms' D.C. office revenue
rather than specific dollar amounts, they are attainable by even the
smallest of firms, including solo practices, that want to support local
legal aid services, says Marks, a former D.C. Bar president and managing
director of the Law Offices of Andrew Marks PLLC.
" We have an obligation. We're so privileged to live in this area and to be
able to practice law in Washington, D.C., " Marks says. " We are the beneficiaries
of the communities in which we live. I personally feel I have an
obligation to give back, and I try to do that through my time, but also
through my checkbook when I can. "
Indeed, law firms in the District are " among the most generous in the
nation in providing pro bono and financial support for legal services, "
according to the commission. " Because of this tradition of engagement,
law firms are a crucial part of the legal services delivery system and valued
partners in access to justice efforts, " it states on its website.
Year after year, law firms that make up the Raising the Bar Leadership Circle
step up to increase financial support to civil legal aid organizations.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP, for example, was one of the eight law firms that
founded the campaign in 2010 and continues to be part of the Leadership
Circle.
" Steptoe has always valued the partnership of remarkably talented, hardworking
legal aid staff who do so much on the front lines of battling
poverty in our community, " says Steptoe Chair Gwendolyn Prothro Renigar.
" Supporting these organizations financially, in addition to our pro
bono work, ensures that high-quality legal representation can reach
those who need it the most. "
Despite firms' commitment, however, the D.C. Access to Justic Commission
says, " Too many vulnerable District residents are forced to navigate
the civil legal system alone, even when those things they most value are
in jeopardy. "
A 2019 commission report shows that thousands of litigants in the District's
local courts proceed without legal representation - for example,
88 percent of tenants in the Landlord
& Tenant Branch of D.C. Superior
Court appeared pro se (compared to
the 95 percent of landlords who had
attorneys), and 97 percent of respondents
in paternity and child support
cases and 75 percent of plaintiffs in
housing conditions cases lacked representation.
Drane
says the D.C. legal community
has a responsibility to ensure its most
vulnerable neighbors have access to
legal representation and other services
they need. " Knowing the positive
difference that legal representation
can make in case outcomes, the fact
that so many of our District neighbors
experience the civil justice system
without legal representation,
should be a call to action for D.C. lawyers to do what they can - either
through financial support or through pro bono - to ensure our legal
community helps as many people as possible, " she says.
JAMES SANDMAN
D.C. Access to Justice Commission
ANSWERING THE CALL FOR HELP
Public funding and law firm contributions provide millions of dollars in
support for the District's large network of legal services providers, but
behind the push to make the civil legal justice system more accessible
to historically underserved residents are also the thousands of individual
lawyers who contribute both time and money to the cause. Legal Aid
DC's Making Justice Real Campaign, for example, raised more than
$3 million in donations from individual attorneys in 2022.
Thousands of Bar members also contribute to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center,
the District's largest provider of pro bono legal services. " From the
largest charitable foundation to the lawyer who donates $50 every
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023 * WASHINGTON LAWYER 21
Courtesy of James Sandman
Susan Esserman

Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Medical_Legal Partnerships feature
Medical Debt feature
Advocacy & Justice Clinic at 30 feature
Civil Legal Aid feature
Purpose Driven Practice feature
Taking the Stand
Member Spotlight
On Further Review
Attorney Briefs
The Learning Curve
Worth Reading
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 5
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Medical_Legal Partnerships feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Medical Debt feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Advocacy & Justice Clinic at 30 feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 18
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Civil Legal Aid feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Purpose Driven Practice feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 40
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 43
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 44
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 45
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2023 - Cover4
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