KEY PROGRAMS AND INITIATIVES
The DC Bar Foundation awards grants to DC-based 501(c)3 non-profit organizations that provide free civil legal aid to DC residents who are financially disenfranchised, or who are otherwise underserved. Read more
DCBF provides loan repayment assistance to qualified attorneys working for an eligible employer in DC in order to: (1) increase the number of experienced, skilled lawyers working on behalf of financially disenfranchised DC residents; and (2) assist DC legal services lawyers who have incurred significant educational debt in obtaining their law degree. Read more
Training and Technical Assistance
DCBF provides support to DC-based civil legal aid organizations through trainings and technical assistance. DCBF not only sponsors multiple trainings for DC’s legal aid organizations every year, but also pays the tuition fee for their staff attorneys to attend select legal skills trainings offered by other organizations in DC. In regards to technical assistance, DCBF providesone-time funding for peer evaluations and consultants when needed by grantees.
Since 2018, the DC Bar Foundation has worked with NPC Research to evaluate its Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program. This comprehensive evaluation centers around three main areas of inquiry: 1) Implementation Evaluation, (2) Outcome Evaluation, and (3) Assessment of Unmet Needs.
Coordinated Intake and Referral
The DC Bar Foundation envisions a future where access to civil legal aid does not depend on prior knowledge of the civil legal system, political power, or financial and other resources. We understand that to streamline legal services access for DC residents; we will have to increase coordination among civil legal aid providers. We had approached earlier efforts to create a better, more coordinated civil legal aid system through our long-standing grants program. In 2020, we tried a different approach. We identified a consultant with expertise in the development of coordinated legal aid systems in other parts of the country to research our community and past efforts and then recommend a strategy. This consultant's work resulted in a December 2020 concept paper that became the foundation for this current effort. Read more
Engaging the Community
Community Listening Sessions. In July and August 2021, the DC Bar Foundation partnered with Bread for the City to host community listening sessions at Bread’s Michelle Obama Southeast Center. Anacostia residents provided feedback on community priorities, issues facing the community, and their experience accessing support for those issues. A subset of the group provided input for a participatory grantmaking pilot made possible by support from the Momentum Fund.
Participatory Grantmaking. While Black residents make up 46% of the District's population, they make up at least 75% of deaths from COVID-19. The impact of these disparities and the pandemic, in general, has been deeply felt in Anacostia, Wards 7 and 8, a predominately black, historically resilient area in the District.
As the DC Bar Foundation works to meet emerging civil legal aid needs stemming from the pandemic, people in Anacostia can provide important perspectives on just what those emerging needs are. The DC Bar Foundation is working with Anacostia residents in a participatory grantmaking pilot project. Participatory grantmaking is a philanthropic approach that engages constituencies in the grantmaking process. Our vision is to work with Anacostia residents who will co-design a small community-based grant program and make decisions regarding distributing those small grants.
This type of community engagement is in line with our strategic framework, which requires us to "engage the larger community to identify community priorities." We know that civil legal assistance will be a vital element of the recovery from this public health emergency. This project leverages our client community's insights and experiences in creative thinking around developing more innovative solutions and more successful, user-friendly services to meet the needs emerging from this moment.
Network Mapping. The DC Bar Foundation is leveraging information from the first-ever mapping of the District's civil legal aid network to change outcomes so that all residents have access to justice, regardless of wealth, income, or power. This specific type of network data can show us how members of DC's civil legal aid network currently interact and where there are opportunities to increase collaboration. To see the results of our network mapping exercise, click here.
The Landlord-Tenant Legal Assistance Network (LTLAN) was formed in December 2019 and included the six grantees who are part of the publicly-funded Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program. Because of their many months of work together as a network, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these organizations were able to come together to create a single phone line for tenants facing eviction, where attorneys are available to help those in need. LTLAN members are Bread for the City, DC Bar Pro Bono Center, Legal Aid Society of DC, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Neighborhood Legal Services Program, and Rising for Justice.
DC Legal Aid Transformations Network. In June 2021, the DC Bar Foundation brought together 57 legal aid providers, funders, community activists, social service providers, and other stakeholders to discuss how to reimagine a more equitable civil justice system in our City. The DC Legal Aid Transformations network grew out of this convening. The group will meet quarterly to increase collaboration and transform the delivery of legal aid in the District.
The Family Law Learning Network (FLLN) began in February 2020 and comprised six of the Foundation’s family law grantees. They are focused on learning from each other and collaboratively building their capacity to use data and evidence to improve their legal practices. FLLN members are Amara, Bread for the City, DC Affordable Law Firm, Legal Aid Society of DC, Safe Sisters Circle, and DC Volunteer Lawyers Project. Working with NPC Research, from July – November 2021, FLLN members surveyed clientele to understand their experiences with remote court proceedings during the pandemic and whether this model should be continued. You can read the survey summary here.
Racial Equity Learning Network. In 2022, the Foundation will launch a racial equity learning network to help a small cohort of DCBF grantees develop racial equity work plans, continue deep learning on racial equity, and implement racial equity strategies as part of organizational change efforts. To participate in this pilot program, DCBF grantees must display a state of readiness to engage in racial equity work, commit to at least four sessions, and agree to peer-share activities between scheduled sessions. Preference will be given to current DCBF grantees who have previously participated in DCBF-hosted racial equity training or established racial equity benchmarks as part of a current grant award.