2014 Summer Public Interest Events for Law Students in Washington, DC

For more information, visit http://www.probono.net/dc/calendar/


Tuesday, June 17 | 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Caregiver Representation Pro Bono Attorney Training – Children’s Law Center

Steptoe & Johnson (1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW; Red Line: Dupont Circle)

Register at www.childrenslawcenter.org/pro-bono-home

Current and prospective pro bono attorneys are invited to learn about adoption, guardianship, and custody law and practice, and representing caregivers in these cases. A light lunch will be provided.


Wednesday, June 18 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Public Interest Happy Hour – Washington Council of Lawyers & Children’s Law Center

Children’s Law Center (616 H Street, NW; Red Line: Gallery Place)

RSVP at http://wclawyers.org/

All are welcome! Invite a friend to join you!


Thursday, June 19 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: DC Superior Court – Washington Council of Lawyers

Jones Day (300 New Jersey Avenue, NW; Red Line: Union Station)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

Three Superior Court judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment.


Tuesday, June 24 | 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Legal Advocacy for People With Intellectual Disabilities – DC Department on Disability Services, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, and Project Action

Arent Fox LLP (1717 K Street, NW; Red Line: Farragut North)

RSVP to mwhitlatch@dcqualitytrust.org

An interactive brown bag discussion of: practice tips, ethical obligations, reasonable accommodations, advocacy support, and more.  


Wednesday, June 25 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Lunch and Law: Bullying – Children’s Law Center

Conference Call: Dial 605–562–3000 and use passcode 964021#

No RSVP is required; learn more at http://www.childrenslawcenter.org/

A discussion of Children’s Law Center’s efforts to address bullying in DC schools.


Tuesday, July 8 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: DC Court of Appeals – Washington Council of Lawyers

DC Court of Appeals (430 E Street, NW – Multipurpose Room; Red Line: Judiciary Square)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

Three Court of Appeals judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment.


Wednesday, July 9 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Fellowships 101: An Introduction to Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships – Washington Council of Lawyers

Georgetown Law (600 New Jersey Avenue, NW – Hart Auditorium; Red Line: Union Station)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

A panel discussion of the ins and outs of project-based fellowship programs. Expert panelists will offer tips and insights about how to craft the best fellowship proposals while in law school.


Thursday, July 10 | 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
An Evening at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Arent Fox LLP

Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW; Orange/Blue Line: Smithsonian)

For more information, contact Emily.Dorsey@arentfox.com

Gerard Leval, General Counsel of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and a partner at Arent Fox LLP, will discuss legal issues relating to the development of the museum and those affecting the museum’s operations since its opening in 1993.


Wednesday, July 16 | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Public Interest Happy Hour – Washington Council of Lawyers

Thomas Foolery (2029 P Street, NW; Red Line: Dupont Circle)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

Celebrity guest bartenders pour your drink: Jim Sandman (Legal Services Corporation), Paul Smith (Jenner & Block), Virginia Sloan (The Constitution Project), and William Treanor (Georgetown University Law Center).


Friday, July 18 | 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Practicing Public Interest Law East of the Anacostia River: 4th Annual Summer Panel Discussion with the East of the River Casehandlers

Deanwood Library (1350 49th Street, NE; Orange Line: Deanwood)

To register, contact Heather Hodges at 202.269.5100 or hhodges@nlsp.org

A discussion about student internships and pro bono opportunities east of the river, the DC Bar Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program for public interest lawyers in DC, and the DC legal services providers that serve the low-income residents of the diverse and vibrant neighborhoods east of the river.


Thursday, July 24 | 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: Office of Administrative Hearings – Washington Council of Lawyers

Arnold & Porter LLP (555 12th Street, NW; Orange/Blue/Red Line: Metro Center)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

Three DC Office of Administrative Hearings judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment.


Wednesday, July 30 | 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Perspectives on Poverty Law from the Bench: US District Court for the District of Columbia – Washington Council of Lawyers

McDermott Will & Emery (500 North Capitol Street, NW; Red Line: Union Station)

Learn more and register at http://wclawyers.org/

Three DC District Court judges will discuss how poverty impacts the justice system, the critical role that pro bono and public interest attorneys play in securing access to justice, and how a public interest career path can lead to a judicial appointment.


Monday, August 18 – Friday, August 22
13th Annual Human Rights on the Hill – University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law

To join the list for more information, including a session schedule, write to JFL@udc.edu

The course features presentations from a wide range of human rights lawyers, activists and governmental agency leaders. No credit is offered, no tuition is charged, donations are accepted, and you can go to one or all of the classes.

Law Students Inspired To Do Public Service at Sold-Out Summer Forum

On June 12, we held our annual Summer Pro Bono & Public Interest Forum. We were joined at Arnold & Porter by over two hundred eager lawyers, summer associates, and legal interns—eager to learn about how to make public service and pro bono work an integral part of their legal careers.

Our Executive Director Nancy Lopez got things underway by sharing a line from “For Good”—from the musical Wicked—describing how we can be changed for the better by the people who come into our lives. Nancy drew not only the obvious conclusion—that clients in need can have their lives changed by lawyers who care—but also the converse: that clients can change their lawyers for the better too.

Then it was on the keynote speech, delivered by Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation. After urging everyone to join Washington Council of Lawyers, Jim shared some words of encouragement and advice for new lawyers. Among other things, lawyers shouldn’t feel the need to devise a master plan: “You shouldn’t have a plan,” Sandman said, because “opportunities for change are around every corner and you should welcome them and follow those that prove promising to bigger and better accomplishments.” He urged young lawyers to get involved in their communities, retain flexibility by living beneath their means—“I drove over here today in my 2003 Honda Civic. With a smile on my face, because I love what I do”—and to work hard on time management.

The rousing and humorous speech concluded with Sandman telling the crowd to “find and collect as many mentors as possible. They can even be younger then you, but find people who inspire and motivate you and don’t let them go.”

Attendees then broke out into one of five sessions. Each featured panels of experienced lawyers and advocates with experience in a particular field of public-interest or pro bono work. Attendees learned (among many other things) about the diverse career paths of civil-rights lawyers; coping with the intense emotional demands of criminal litigation; the complicated legal and humanitarian issues involved in immigration cases; the unique skills that new lawyers can develop working on pro bono transactional matters, and the desperate need for representation of parties in DC family court.

It was a ton of information and inspiration packed into just over two hours. And we can’t wait for next year’s event!

The Exoneration of Sabein Burgess: Pro Bono Lawyers Overcome Junk Science and Help to Free an Innocent Man

On May 28, we cosponsored (along with the Constitution Project, the Innocence Project, and Steptoe and Johnson) a panel on the recent exoneration of Sabein Burgess. Burgess spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aleta Sprague has this report on the panel.

At age 24, Sabein Burgess was convicted of murdering his girlfriend at their Baltimore home. His defense attorney called no witnesses during the two-day trial. Burgess was sentenced to life in prison; he remained incarcerated until this year – despite the emergence of contradictory eyewitness testimony and another man’s confession. Eventually, a team of attorneys demonstrated that he was convicted based on faulty forensic evidence. On February 21, 2014, Burgess, now 43, was finally able to return home.

The panel featured attorneys from both Steptoe and Johnson and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), which worked together on behalf of Burgess. The panelists explained how the justice system failed Burgess by providing an ineffective defense attorney and repeatedly disregarding evidence of his innocence after his conviction – particularly the confession of Charles Dorsey, who today is considered the primary suspect.

The conviction of Burgess rested almost entirely on questionable gunshot residue evidence – the validity of which was formally reassessed by the FBI in 2005. Gunshot residue evidence has a high risk of contamination; today, the FBI has stopped using this type of evidence.

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti of the Innocence Project explained how gunshot residue evidence and other forensic science tools were created by law enforcement, are subject to confirmation bias, and generally lack scientific rigor. Indeed, according to MAIP, “flawed forensic science testimony has been a factor in more than half of the DNA exonerations nationwide and in more than 20 percent of all exonerations nationwide.”

Unfortunately, the Burgess story is not unique. A 2012 study found that more than 2000 individuals had been convicted and then exonerated of serious crimes since 1989. Mere weeks before Burgess’ release, another study found that exonerations in the U.S. have reached a record high—though an increasing number are linked to false confessions induced by plea bargains, rather than DNA evidence.

Most disturbingly, a recent analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that nearly one in twenty convictions in capital cases are wrongful – meaning that around 120 of the 3000 individuals on death row are innocent. As one panelist noted, “you have to think twice about the death penalty itself…when a case like this makes its way through the system.”

Attorneys who worked on the case urged audience members to find ways to become involved with exoneration work (or with any pro bono cause that speaks to their passions). To learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and identify opportunities to volunteer, click here.

Pro Bono Practice and Rule 49

Yesterday we submitted comments to the DC Court of Appeals regarding its proposed amendments to Appellate Rule 49, governing pro bono work by lawyers not admitted in the District of Columbia. The text of our comments is below:

Clerk, D.C. Court of Appeals
430 E Street, N.W.
Suite 209
Washington, DC 20001

Re: Proposed Revisions to D.C. App. R. 49, Legal Assistance by Internal Counsel

Dear Chief Judge Washington:

Washington Council of Lawyers writes in response to the D.C. Court of Appeals’ request for comments regarding the proposed revisions to D.C.
Court of Appeals Rule 49. Although we strongly support the goal of increasing access to justice by allowing internal counsel who are not admitted to the D.C. Bar to perform pro bono work, we are concerned that the supervisory language of the proposed revisions imposes greater burdens on attorneys who supervise pro bono work performed by internal counsel than are required when supervising similarly-situated government lawyers. To avoid this anomaly, and to ensure that internal counsel do not face unduly restrictive requirements for performing pro bono service, we urge the Court to revise the proposed rule to make it consistent with the rules governing pro bono service by government lawyers.

Since our founding as a voluntary bar association in 1971, Washington Council of Lawyers has promoted pro bono service and the public interest practice of law. Today, we continue to seek and recommend strategies for all lawyers to engage in meaningful ways to provide legal services to low-income people in our community. We encourage attorneys in all practices to make pro bono service a regular part of their careers, and we promote solutions that increase the availability of high-quality legal representation for persons in need in the District of Columbia.

The proposed amendment to Rule 49 permits internal counsel, who are not admitted in D.C., to perform pro bono work in the District, if in good standing of the highest court of a state or territory and supervised by a D.C. Bar member. In addition, the proposed rule change would require that the work the counsel is doing be assigned or referred by an organization that provides pro bono legal services to the public without fee.

We support allowing internal counsel to perform pro bono work, even if they are not admitted in the District of Columbia. First, we recognize the need for more pro bono counsel in the District to promote the access to justice for the significant population of economically disadvantaged and vulnerable persons in need of legal help. Second, it has been our experience that a similar provision applicable to government attorneys Rule 49(c)(9)(C) has been very effective in making available additional quality legal representation to persons who otherwise could not afford an attorney. Finally, it is our understanding that the legal services community is willing and able to make the additional referrals of cases upon which the success of this amendment depends.

We have significant concerns, however, regarding the amendment’s language addressing supervision by a D.C. Bar member. We recommend that this language be modified to track the parallel provision governing pro bono service by govermnent attorneys. The proposed language in Rule 49 for internal counsel not admitted in D.C. providing pro bono services differs from the parallel language governing government lawyers who are not admitted in D.C., but provide pro bono legal services pursuant to Rule 49. The proposed amendment provides that internal counsel may provide pro bono services when, among other conditions, the “individual is supervised by an active member of the District of Columbia Bar who takes responsibility for the quality of the work and complaints concerning the services, and that the practitioner or the District of Columbia Bar member gives notice to the public of the member’s supervision and the practitioner’s bar status.” In contrast, the supervisory language in the current Rule 49(c)(9)(C), covering government attorneys, requires that, among other things, the attorney “is supervised by an enrolled, active member of the District of Columbia Bar.”

We are especially concerned that the differing language might be interpreted to suggest that distinct standards apply to the two categories of similarly-situated lawyers, and that the perception of a higher standard of supervision required for internal counsel could have a chilling effect on the willingness of some D.C. Bar members to supervise pro bono cases. To avoid unduly deterring lawyers from supervising pro bono work by internal counsel, the Court should apply the existing language of Rule 49(c)(9)(C) to internal counsel, so that the provisions will be uniform. See also Opinion 12-2 of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Committee on Unauthorized Practice of Law (September 16, 2002) (“The same standard governs the supervision requirement in Rule 49 as in the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct … to make reasonable efforts to ensure conformity with, among other Rules, Rule 1.1 requiring competent
representation and Rule 1.3 requiring zealous and diligent representation within the bounds of the law.”).

We commend everyone involved in the process of drafting the proposed changes to Rule 49, and we appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on this important issue.

Respectfully submitted,

Elizabeth L. Howe
Washington Council of Lawyers

Washington Council of Lawyers: Not Just for Litigators!

If you are a policy wonk, or if you spend more time working with lawmakers than duking it out opposing counsel, joining Washington Council of Lawyers will help you stay connected with the broader legal community and other lawyers committed to public service.

We are the only bar association in DC devoted to the promotion of pro bono and public-interest law. We sponsor a mentoring program for new attorneys, forums on recent developments in the law, and events focusing on policy issues surrounding poverty and access to justice. Through our monthly happy hours, annual awards reception, and other events, we also offer lots of networking opportunities with like-minded attorneys from local law firms, government agencies, and advocacy organizations. And we provide a variety of opportunities to volunteer to help those in need.

Members receive discounted prices to paid events, and your dues will ensure we can continue to promote the access to justice in our community. Click here to join today!


Washington Council of Lawyers: A Welcoming Environment for New Lawyers

Washington Council of Lawyers provides a welcoming community for lawyers who are new to the profession – or new to DC – and have a strong interest in pro bono and public-interest law.

We bring together lawyers old and new, who work together to advance our mission. Our programs provide opportunities to meet legal legends and our mentoring program for new attorneys is one-of-a-kind.

Through our monthly happy hours, annual awards reception, and other events, we integrate like-minded attorneys from local law firms, government agencies, and advocacy organizations. We offer reasonably-priced, top-notch skills trainings; past programs have focused on opening statements, expert witnesses, impeachment, and moving documents into evidence. And we offer a variety of volunteer opportunities so that you can provide direct service to those who need representation. 

Members receive discounted prices to paid events, and your dues will ensure that we can continue to promote access to justice in Washington, DC. Click here to join today!

Washington Council of Lawyers: Integrating Law Students Into the Legal Community

Law students can sometimes feel isolated from the reasons that brought them to law school. Public-interest students may feel like the path to becoming a public interest lawyer is unclear and full of obstacles. Other students may be interested in private practice, but lack role models who have managed to integrate pro bono work into their legal practice. If you share these concerns, consider joining Washington Council of Lawyers

We are the only bar association in Washington, DC devoted to the promotion of pro bono and public-interest law. We are committed to creating the next generation of public-interest lawyers and pro bono practitioners by supporting current law students. We integrate law students into the DC legal community by offering networking opportunities and happy hours, educating law students about positions for aspiring public-interest lawyers, and exposing students to areas of law where advocacy is sorely needed.

During this spring semester, we have hosted monthly happy hours, offered law students the opportunity to meet current and former public-interest fellows, and organized a panel discussion on global pro bono opportunities for lawyers and law students.

As a member, you’ll be the first to hear about our upcoming programs and trainings, you will receive discounted prices to paid events, and your dues will ensure continued city-wide support for free and low-cost programming for students pursuing public-interest and pro bono goals.

Please consider joining other law students who are dedicated to using their skills to help close the access-to-justice gap. Click here to join today!


Washington Council of Lawyers: Great Support for Legal Services Lawyers

As a legal services attorney, you are dedicating yourself to closing the access-to-justice gap. Your work is difficult. So you deserve to have emotional support, camaraderie with like-minded lawyers, and mentoring. You can find those things by joining Washington Council of Lawyers.

We are the only bar association in Washington, DC devoted to the promotion of pro bono and public-interest law. We bring public-interest lawyers together to create community through monthly happy hours and receptions. Our mentoring program pairs new public-interest lawyers with more seasoned counterparts. We host programs to address topics such as burnout among public-interest lawyers. And we provide skills trainings to ensure that public-interest lawyers are able to provide their clients with the best possible representation.

Please consider joining other legal services attorneys who are dedicated to building support within and for the DC legal-services community. As a member, you’ll be the first to hear about our upcoming programs and trainings; you’ll receive discounted prices to paid events; and your dues will ensure we can continue to provide a wide variety of free or low-cost programs designed to support legal-services attorneys.

Click here to join today!


Washington Council of Lawyers: A Pro Bono Connection for Lawyers in Private Practice

For those in private practice, maintaining an active pro-bono practice can be challenging. It really helps to have support – not only within your firm, but from other like-minded lawyers elsewhere.

We can help get you that support – as well as training and connections to pro bono work. We are the only bar association in DC that is devoted to the promotion of pro bono and public-interest law. We also offer the chance to meet like-minded attorneys from other firms, government agencies, advocacy organizations, and corporate-law offices, including monthly happy hours and an annual awards reception.

As a member, you’ll be the first to hear about our upcoming programs and trainings; you’ll receive discounted prices to paid events; and your dues will ensure we can continue to support pro bono work by lawyers in private practice.

Please consider joining with other law-firm attorneys who are dedicated to making pro-bono service a part of their professional life, and become a member of the Washington Council of Lawyers. Click here to join!


Washington Council of Lawyers: Great for Government Lawyers

If you believe that pro bono service is an important component of a government lawyer’s career, considering joining Washington Council of Lawyers.

As a dues-paying member, you’ll demonstrate your support for  programs and trainings aimed at government attorneys interested in pro-bono work.

You’ll also be the first to hear about our upcoming programs and trainings; receive discounts on our paid events, such as skills trainings; and receive our monthly Public Interest Jobs Clearinghouse, a digest of public-interest job listings from Washington, DC and around the country.

Plus, your dues will ensure we can continue to promote and support pro-bono work by government lawyers.

Government lawyers can join for just $40 per year. Click here to join now!


Don’t forget to vote for DC Bar officers – voting is open until May 23.

Don’t forget to vote for DC Bar officers – voting is open until May 23.

Become a Judge!

Part of our mission is to encourage the appointment of local and federal judges who are committed to equal access to justice and high-quality representation for all who appear before the courts.

So we thought we’d let you know that there’s a new vacancy on the DC Superior Court, and that applications to the DC Judicial Nomination Commission are due on May 16, 2014. (More information about the application process is available here.)

We are eager to support candidates who are committed to protecting the rights of all litigants before the courts. In the past, we’ve submitted letters of support on behalf of applicants with one or more of the following types of experiences and characteristics:

** Personal involvement in the provision of pro bono and public-interest legal services;

** Significant efforts to promote equal access to justice and effective representation for all litigants; and

** A strong commitment to the District of Columbia community and equal justice under law.

You can learn more from our Policy for Supporting Judicial Candidates.

We encourage you to consider applying and help create a fair, responsive judicial system for all citizens!

Meet the Candidates

Once again it’s election season for would-be leaders of the DC Bar. Our DC Bar Affairs committee is busy learning about this year’s candidates so we can make our annual endorsements of the candidates that share our strong commitment to pro bono and public-interest law. But we also wanted you to have a chance to meet the candidates for yourself before voting opens on April 29.

So we’ll be cosponsoring a meet-the-candidates reception on Thursday, April 24. The event takes place from 6:30 - 8:30 pm at Hogan Lovells (555 13th Street NW - Metro Center). It’s free, and RSVP is not required. There will even be wine, beer, and hors d’oeuvres. 

We’re cosponsoring this event with a great group of organizations: LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia; Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, D.C. Area; Bar Association of the District of Columbia; Capital Area Muslim Bar Association; Greater Washington Area Chapter, Women Lawyers Division, of the National Bar Association; Hispanic Bar Association of DC; and the Washington Bar Association.


Join our Board!!

We’re looking for dedicated lawyers to join our all-volunteer Board of Directors and help promote access to justice in Washington, DC. If you’re interested in joining, please submit your application by Friday, May 2. 

Our working board plans and participates in a range of educational and training programs, social and fundraising events, and advocacy activities. Serving on our board is both professionally and personally rewarding, and we welcome applications from public-interest minded advocates from nonprofit organizations, the government, law firms, and law schools. 


(No, not this kind of board.)

Sound good? Here are some more details:

Responsibilities: The term of service is one year - from September 2014 until September 2015. We hold five board meetings each year (typically at lunchtime during the week), and board members must also join and participate actively in at least two of our committees – these include Communications, D.C. Bar Affairs, Issues, Membership, Special Events/Fundraising, Pro Bono/Public Interest, and Personnel. In addition, Board members are asked to contribute financially to the organization and attend our events when possible.

Qualifications: Applicants should have a demonstrated commitment to public-interest and pro bono law. We’re looking for dedicated, active attorneys interested both in working on our current programs and developing new ones. Our board members have a range of skills, interests, and experience, and we’re especially interested in people skilled in social media, digital media, or digital technology.

How to Apply: Please send a brief statement of interest (no longer than two typed pages) and a resume to our President, Betsy Howe (ehowe@sidley.com) by Friday, May 2, 2013 at 5 pm. If you have questions about Board membership, feel free to email Betsy, or our Executive Director Nancy Lopez (NALopez@wclawyers.org). 

Thanks, and we look forward to reading your application!

Pro Bono Without Borders: Getting Involved in Global Pro Bono

On Wednesday, January 29, we’ll be hosting Pro Bono Without Borders, a panel discussion about global pro bono. To preview the event, Renuka Nagaraj interviewed Jessica Ryckman, Special Counsel & Program Manager at Lawyers Without Borders, about doing pro bono work with an international dimension. Here’s what Jessica had to say:

How did LWOB start, and what was the inspiration for it?

Christina Storm, the current director, started LWOB about 15 years ago. At the time, she wanted to volunteer for an international program and she could not find any outlets to do this. This inspired her to start a quality program for lawyers and judges who wanted to do pro bono work abroad.

What is the mission of LWOB?

LWOB focuses on strengthening the rule of law and increasing access to justice around the world and providing pro bono lawyers the opportunity to work on these projects.

How did you personally get involved with LWOB?

I was working at a law firm and wanted to work on an international pro bono project. I found a project in Liberia that provided training for attorneys and judges on human trafficking laws. After working on this project in Liberia for about 3 weeks, I was hooked and wanted to do this kind of work full-time. I asked Christina Storm if there were any opportunities and fortuitously, LWOB was looking for someone in DC at that time.

What do you do at LWOB?

I am a Project Manager and Special Counsel and manage some of LWOB’s Africa programs. For example, I have been working, in conjunction with the US Department of State, on a Liberian human trafficking program, which produces in-person trainings and educational materials. I also work on LWOB’s Kenya initiative, which is creating an independent, Kenyan national-led program and also produces annual trainings there.

What are the different kinds of projects that LWOB offers?

There is a wide range of programs. LWOB does a lot of trainings for judges, lawyers and law enforcement abroad. We also send participants to observe important court proceedings as a neutral party to report on procedure and fairness at the proceedings. For example, LWOB volunteers observed the Caprivi Strip treason trial in Namibia, the longest and largest trial in this country’s history.

Furthermore, LWOB creates graphic novels for countries with low literacy rates, on important topics—such as gender rights, human trafficking, inheritance and succession, and HIV/AIDS. Along the same lines, LWOB makes educational coloring books for children, such as one specific to children in Liberia on the dangers of trafficking.

Does LWOB work with attorneys of all experience levels?

Yes, LWOB takes volunteers of many experience levels. It works with college students, law students, attorneys, and judges.

What advice do you have for those who are thinking of doing global volunteering?

Just jump right in! If you are interested in pro bono work abroad, contact organizations that do this work and talk to people who have done it before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Sometimes, people think that they can’t make the money or time commitment for a pro bono project. However, it’s not as time-consuming or complicated as you may think. So take the next step and start researching how you can start volunteering.

What do volunteers like most about working with LWOB?

A lot of people say that volunteering for LWOB was a life-changing event. Volunteers also most frequently comment that the LWOB programs are really well-organized and substantive. They had the chance to really get down to the nitty-gritty when working abroad and to work and build relationships with local lawyers and judges.

Are you especially proud of any particular LWOB projects?

LWOB has been training on a human trafficking in Liberia since 2007. Liberians have had a human trafficking law in place since 2005, and the first prosecution under the law was not until 2013. This case involved a prosecutor and judge that LWOB trained. After talking to them, they credit the training with helping them understand the law and how to hear and prosecute a trafficking case. That is something I’m so proud of, because it shows the impact you can have in other countries.

To learn more, register to attend Pro Bono Without Borders – this Wednesday, January 29.


Washington Council of Lawyers is the District's sole voluntary bar association dedicated to promoting pro bono and public-interest law. Since 1971.


view archive