Legal Aid congratulates two of our exemplary pro bono partners – Crowell & Moring and Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett – on being selected as the 2013 D.C. Bar Pro Bono Law Firms of the Year. Both firms will be recognized this evening at the D.C. Bar Awards Dinner and Annual Meeting.
Year after year, Crowell & Moring has been one of Legal Aid’s most active pro bono partners. In November 2010, the firm made a substantial commitment in joining Legal Aid’s Loaned Associate Program, agreeing to “loan” us an associate to work full-time in our offices on a six-month rotation. Since then, we’ve had six talented Crowell associates work with our Housing Law Unit, defending tenants in eviction suits and helping clients secure their right to safe and well-maintained housing.
Moreover, Crowell attorneys have handled dozens of family, disability, and housing law cases referred from Legal Aid over the past few years. In 2012, the firm took on more cases than any other law firm, representing over 10 percent of the cases that Legal Aid referred citywide. Crowell attorneys and paralegals also participate in several of Legal Aid’s special projects, such as our annual Medicare Part D initiative and helping to screen applicants at the court-based Child Support Resource Center that is staffed by attorneys from Legal Aid and Bread for the City.
In 2012, Legal Aid awarded Crowell & Moring Public Service Partner Susan M. Hoffman with its highest honor, the Servant of Justice Award, in recognition of her inspired passion and pioneering leadership managing the firm’s dynamic pro bono program. Legal Aid also honored Crowell Partner Aryeh Portnoy with its 2011 Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence, in recognition of his significant pro bono representation and mentoring of his colleagues in the area of family law.
A few years ago, Legal Aid was approached by New York-based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett about launching a signature pro bono project for their small, but growing, Washington office. The firm decided to focus its efforts on representing tenants in eviction cases and has regularly accepted case referrals from Legal Aid since that time. For an office of only 24 attorneys, Simpson Thacher’s Washington team has devoted an impressive number of hours working on these cases.
The project is successful, in large part, due to participation and support by attorneys at all levels, including partners and senior associates. Legal Aid awarded former Simpson Thacher senior associate Jonathan Lin the 2012 Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence for his leadership in learning landlord and tenant law and practice, rallying his colleagues to work on cases, and mentoring junior attorneys.
Simpson Thacher’s extraordinary pro bono commitment continues. Earlier this year, the firm secured a D. C. Court of Appeals victory for a client referred from Legal Aid three years ago for what appeared to be a routine nonpayment of rent case in Superior Court. They lost at trial and appealed. The Court of Appeals issued a ruling favorable to Simpson Thacher’s client and created good law by clarifying the D.C. retaliation statute, which provides a rebuttable presumption of retaliation when a landlord brings suit to evict a tenant within six months after the tenant exercises her legal rights – in this case, reporting housing conditions that required repair.
We join the D.C. Bar in honoring Crowell & Moring and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for doing their part in making justice real for individuals and families who cannot afford to pay for legal representation.