Legal Aid is thrilled that two of Legal Aid’s key pro bono partners – the law firm of Thompson, Loss & Judge LLP (TLJ) and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP (Zuckerman) – will be honored at the 2010 D.C. Bar Annual Business Meeting and Awards Dinner, on, Thursday, June 24, 2010 as the Pro Bono Law Firms of the Year, for small and large firms respectively.
Thompson, Loss & Judge
TLJ is truly deserving of the law firm of the year award for small firms. Since 2006, TLJ has partnered with Legal Aid to provide pro bono representation to some of our community’s most vulnerable individuals their effort to secure essential government benefits. The firm has assisted numerous clients referred from Legal Aid, guiding them through the Social Security Administration bureaucracy and helping those who have disabling conditions secure the benefits they need and deserve. In several cases, TLJ’s clients were entitled to thousands of dollars of back benefits after years of pursuing their claims on their own.
The 12-attorney firm has provided more than 1,000 hours of pro bono attorney service since beginning its partnership with Legal Aid. Nearly 500 of these hours were in the past year alone. TLJ’s sustained commitment over several years to its pro bono partnership with Legal Aid rivals that of law firms 20 or more times the size.
“Partnering with Legal Aid has been great for our firm,” said TLJ partner Tom Judge. “Legal Aid helped us develop a pro bono program that best suits a firm of our size. Through close coordination with Legal Aid, we have helped some of D.C.’s poorest disabled citizens obtain essential government benefits and have found that most rewarding.”
Zuckerman Spaeder LLP
Like TLJ, Zuckerman has a particularly close relationship with Legal Aid. In the past year, for Legal Aid alone, Zuckerman has provided ethics advice and representation, as well as trial level representation to clients living in poverty. Even if this is all Zuckerman had done, it would have been an impressive contribution. However, Zuckerman is particularly deserving of the award given the firm’s extraordinary – and literally unparalleled – commitment to Legal Aid’s Appellate Advocacy Project, which focuses on litigating cases of importance to persons living in poverty before D.C.’s highest court.
Legal Aid’s Appellate Advocacy Project would not be what it is today without the tireless efforts (and hundreds of pro bono hours) of Zuckerman Spaeder, particularly Zuckerman Counsel David Reiser. Zuckerman’s efforts in this regard have had a substantial impact on access to justice.
As James Klein, Chief of the Appellate Division of the Public Defender’s Service has put it, the Appellate Advocacy Project “has not merely satisfied a previously unmet need by providing top quality appellate advocacy on behalf of indigent civil litigants, but may fairly be described as having changed the culture of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by ensuring that the appeals presented by the Legal Aid Society are eagerly anticipated by the judges of that court who appreciate those cases as an opportunity to grapple with vital issues that far too long suffered in the absence of first-rate advocacy.”
Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Referral Program helps numerous low income individuals every year, in a multitude of ways. The program refers cases to attorneys working in private law firms and government agencies who are willing to represent clients on a pro bono basis. The matters initially are screened by Legal Aid staff and an experienced Legal Aid attorney is assigned as a mentor for each matter referred. Legal Aid mentors are available to answer questions, provide sample pleadings, discuss relevant case law and strategy, and offer ongoing guidance as the case moves forward.
TLJ and Zuckerman have been key partners in Legal Aid’s pro bono effort. We could not be more pleased with their recognition by the D.C. Bar.