Legal Aid DC Announces the Reopening of Big Chair Office East of the River Offering In-Person Legal Services


Legal Aid of the District of Columbia today announced the reopening of its office at the Anacostia Professional Building, also known as the Big Chair, which will serve as a general intake site and host community events. The community office will assist residents in need of free legal services for the first time since its closing at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.  

“We’re thrilled to reopen our Big Chair location and increase access to free, in-person legal services for District residents who live or work east of the River,” said Vikram Swaruup, Executive Director of Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. “Ultimately, we want to make sure we’re helping residents when they face significant legal challenges and don’t know where to turn – from foreclosure or debt collection to staying safe from domestic violence to accessing government benefits like health care or nutritional assistance. Reopening our Anacostia office allows us to meet people where they are and ensures that residents can talk to a lawyer face-to-face.”

The Big Chair office originally opened in 2010 in a different space in the same building but closed for in-person client meetings in March 2020. At that time, Legal Aid pivoted to online- and phone-based intakes.

The office is now open for intake twice a week, with the goal of eventually increasing that capacity. It is staffed by two or three attorneys and a legal assistant, who can conduct initial interviews with potential clients and provide legal services or referrals. The Big Chair office is staffed by Legal Aid’s Community Lawyering team, which is focused on expanding accessibility of legal services, providing community legal education, and ensuring that all of Legal Aid’s work is informed and directed by the needs of the communities it serves. In addition to the Big Chair office, Legal Aid also serves walk-ins at its main location in Northwest. More information on both locations is available here.

The office is particularly needed now as the demand for legal services continues to grow. Compared to a year ago, calls for Legal Aid’s services have increased by 20%. The need has particularly increased in eviction matters, where calls have increased by more than 50%, as well as foreclosure cases and food stamps matters.

The Big Chair office will offer initial intake interviews and brief services in Legal Aid’s major practice areas: issues relating to housing, public benefits, family law and domestic violence, foreclosure, debt collection, criminal record sealing and immigration. During an initial interview, people will discuss their case with an attorney or intake specialist, who may be able to provide advice during the intake. After the interview, Legal Aid DC will determine whether they can help the person and either take on the case or refer them to an organizational partner who may be better equipped to serve them. 

Walk-in hours will not require an appointment. Any prospective clients can come in, including directly after a meeting with the Social Security Administration downstairs or the District’s Department of Human Services across the street. Children are welcome and there is an elevator for accessibility. 

Legal Aid is working to expand its presence in the District. Legal Aid’s services are available via phone, online, and at various in-person locations, including at Superior Court-based projects in Northwest, the Big Chair Office in Southeast, and the Domestic Violence Intake Center in Southeast. The Community Lawyering Program is also available to partner with community-based organizations throughout the District for intake clinics and “Know Your Rights” trainings.

Latest Blogs Posts