As Director of the Pro Bono Program here at Legal Aid, I regularly have the pleasure of calling people to tell them: “We have found a lawyer who wants to help you free of charge.” I can actually feel through the telephone line the figurative weight that is lifted off the shoulders of someone who hears those words – people who are facing the loss of their home or a day in court fighting for custody of their children or an Administrative Law Judge hearing after years of waiting for Social Security benefits.
Each year, through Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Program, hundreds of lawyers represent clients referred by Legal Aid, volunteer at our offices or partner with us on special projects. These pro bono volunteers help tenants stave off evictions and secure their rights to safe and well maintained housing, assist parents in achieving family stability through child custody and support arrangements, and represent individuals pursuing disability benefits because they can no longer work due to deteriorating health. In many cases, but for the availability of pro bono volunteers, these clients would have been turned away from Legal Aid.
The contributions of pro bono attorneys are being celebrated nationwide and here in the District this week as part of the annual National Pro Bono Celebration, sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. This effort is designed to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve.
We are fortunate in Washington, DC to have a Bar whose commitment to serving the pro bono needs of our community is unmatched anywhere in the country. We want each and every one of you who is a part of Legal Aid’s ever increasing pro bono family to know that your contribution is recognized not just this week, but throughout the year. We thank you for partnering with Legal Aid to help make justice real for District individuals and families living in poverty.