On June 27th, Arnold & Porter LLP’s Lisa Blatt, the Honorary Chair of this year’s Generous Associates Campaign, hosted a reception for this year’s Co-Chairs and Coordinators, scores of whom were in attendance. It was a wonderful opportunity for Legal Aid staff and Board members to meet and thank many of the law firm associates who are working hard to make this year’s Campaign a success.
Executive Director Eric Angel opened the event, thanking everyone in attendance. It is truly remarkable, Eric noted, that the Generous Associates Campaign—when it is successful—raises one-fifth of the budget of the largest general civil legal services program in D.C. That means that one in five of our survivors of domestic violence served, one in five of the tenants we represent, one in five of the DC residents we help to obtain the health care to which they are entitled under the law, are only helped because of this extraordinary campaign.
Eric then introduced “unflappable intake and fundraising star” Karen Carr of Arent Fox LLP, one of the Co-Chairs of this year’s Campaign. Karen spoke eloquently about what being involved in this Campaign means to her—how it supports those who are working for fundamental change in the lives of District residents every single day. Karen’s commitment to social justice extends beyond her involvement in the Campaign. As a veteran intake volunteer at Legal Aid, Karen spoke about the DC residents she has had the opportunity to speak to and help over the years. “It is an incredible privilege to be able to be a part of the Generous Associates Campaign,” she said. “It is another hands-on way to give back to the Legal Aid staff attorneys and this organization that does so much for our community.”
Karen congratulated her fellow Co-Chairs and Associates on reaching the $300,000 mark in the Campaign: “Tonight is about celebrating what we’ve done so far…but it’s also a night to remember that we have more to do.” She announced that the Campaign will be extended for two more weeks to July 15, and encouraged all coordinators to make their final pushes, host events, send e-mails, make phone calls, and ask Legal Aid staff to come speak at their events.
Eric then introduced Honorary Chair Lisa Blatt, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court of the United States than any woman in history. Lisa, who prevailed in a pro bono case before the Supreme Court just this week, began by discussing a case near and dear to Legal Aid’s work, Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, 131 S. Ct. 1197, 179 L. Ed. 2d 159 (2011), in which she persuaded the Supreme Court that the statute of limitations for veterans to challenge disability benefit denials was not jurisdictional. Although this was an important legal precedent, helping thousands of veterans, that is not what Lisa discussed. Rather, what she recalled was the phone call she made to her client’s widow explaining that they had won before the Nation’s Court and what that would mean for her life and her sustenance. Lisa described this pro bono case as “the most professionally rewarding experience” in her career. She noted that this is exactly the type of case that Legal Aid does, helping individual veterans or other vulnerable residents receive the benefits they are entitled to, or helping individual homeowners stay in their homes. Finally, Lisa spoke movingly about her friend Barbara McDowell, who left the Office of the Solicitor General to join Legal Aid to found its Appellate Advocacy Project. She noted how proud she was of Barbara for devoting her immense talents to the most vulnerable among us. Barbara helped set extraordinary legal precedent for D.C. residents, but Lisa noted the great conversations she had with Barbara about individual clients helped and individual lives improved. Lisa exhorted the Co-Chairs and Coordinators to keep up the great work.
The Generous Associates Campaign formally ends July 15th, though all donations received through the end of July will be counted towards the Campaign and will be reflected in the final total of the ‘Top Firm’ competition.