At the end of October, the DC Bar Foundation and our civil legal aid community will celebrate Pro Bono Week. As the largest funder of civil legal aid in the District, we are grateful for the network of attorneys who work hand-in-hand to expand access to justice for all, regardless of income. I am most proud of our grantees who work tirelessly to recruit and support pro bono attorneys for our low-income neighbors. Let me share a story that exemplifies this partnership:
Ms. M was discouraged by the weight of an old arrest record. She could not shake the stigma. She had ongoing trouble getting hired for jobs. Can you imagine the strain of being categorically barred from supporting yourself and your family? When she came to our grantee Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP), a pro bono attorney working with their team determined that the two charges on Ms. M’s record could be sealed. Both were more than 10 years old and had not resulted in convictions. One had not been prosecuted, and she could readily prove her innocence. The other was eligible for sealing due to the long passage of time and the nature of the allegation. The pro bono attorney gathered evidence of Ms. M’s innocence and other records, then drafted a motion to seal the client’s record. When granted the motion to seal, public records no longer implicated Ms. M and she was free from the obligation to reveal the arrest. Ms. M was free to earn a living again. Providing pro bono services to low-income neighbors like Ms. M is an important step in achieving equal access to justice. Working with pro bono attorneys creates a multiplier effect for our grantees. When lawyers volunteer their time, it frees up our grantees’ staff to focus on other specialized work.
Investing in grantees like NLSP, who are building their pro bono capacity, is one of the many critical ways the Foundation is working to transform DC’s civil legal aid network. Ms. M is why we celebrate DC Pro Bono Week October 20-26 – along with SUPPORTERS LIKE YOU who make access to justice possible.
The District of Columbia has more than its fair share of challenges, but we will not stop until all District residents have the access to justice they deserve. Your support makes this possible. THANK YOU!
Chief Executive Officer