Impact of the Pandemic
1 in 4 adults
with children in D.C. say they can't afford enough food for their children
1 in 10 adults
in rental housing are behind on rent
43.1% of Black tenants
and 63.8% of Latinx tenants
have little or no confidence they can pay their rent.
140,000+ people applied for unemployment insurance
in the first six months of the pandemic
compared to37,720 people
in all of 2019
D.C. REPRESENTS is an initiative that challenges law firms and practices, government agencies and attorneys, corporations, associations, law schools and law students, and public interest organizations to enhance their existing pro bono commitment to confront the influx of COVID-19 related legal needs in the District. Through the campaign, we are asking organizations to identify and commit to ways they will expand their pro bono commitment. For them and for individual volunteers, we are providing specific information on ways to help.
Read: Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Letter Thanking Participating Organizations
Press Release: Legal community launches D.C. Represents to expand pro bono legal representation of local residents impacted by the pandemic (March 25, 2021)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in six D.C. residents lived in poverty, and the poverty rate in the District’s poorest Ward (which is 90% Black) was 35.7%. When faced with legal issues threatening their stability, 75% to 97% of D.C. residents who appeared in Superior Court did not have a lawyer.
Since the pandemic struck, the health crisis and the resulting economic downturn have created a wave of evolving COVID-19 related legal needs that have made this crisis even more acute. Calls to domestic violence hotlines and legal clinics have increased significantly since the pandemic.
These are just a few examples of the civil legal needs District residents are experiencing, particularly in the areas of:
Debt and Consumer Protection
Wills and Probate
Children and Families (custody and GAL, child support, special education)
The D.C. REPRESENTS campaign is being launched by a coalition of representatives from D.C.’s legal service providers, law schools, law firms, and the D.C. Access to Justice Commission to challenge our legal community to expand its commitment to helping District residents manage civil legal problems made much harder due to COVID.
Statements from the Chief Judges of the DC Courts on D.C. REPRESENTS:
Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby: The unprecedented times of the COVID 19 pandemic and the movement for racial equity that we have experienced in our country over the past year-plus have demonstrated all to clearly that we have a way to go before Equal Justice for All is a reality. Even here in our nation’s Capital, where we have one of the largest concentrations of lawyers, and a judiciary devoted to access to justice, we have people living in our community who do not have the means to afford an attorney, nor access to pro bono assistance. Although the need for pro bono assistance is greatest for unrepresented litigants with cases in our trial court, we are also seeing an increase in the number of people trying to file their appeals in the Court of Appeals without counsel to assist them. After all the damage that COVID has wrought on our economy, those with lower income levels and those who have been left without a job need you — our community needs you — now more than ever.
Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring: Pro bono is so vitally important in our community. So many litigants come to DC Courts unrepresented and with little understanding of how the justice system work. For them, navigating the process of filing a case, responding to motions and discovery requests, and presenting their case is incredibly challenging. We at the Superior Court, like the Court of Appeals, have worked to have help available through resource and self-help centers, online Live Chat features, and staff prepared to answer questions via phone and email. But we also depend on the help of the bar and the thousands of attorneys who provide pro bono services to indigent and low-income parties in our court system. The DC Represents campaign recognizes this important contribution to our community, ensuring that otherwise unrepresented litigants have someone standing by them who has legal knowledge, skill, and ability to help ensure their issues are properly presented to the court. With that in hand, we can say that our courts are not only open to all, but are providing justice to all, and thus can be trusted by all here in our great city.
Scroll through these examples of project commitments:
- Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is increasing its interest in and commitment to the local DC legal service providers with which it works. The firm will also work with our legal aid partners to identify ways to use all of the firm’s resource – including non-lawyer professionals – to advocate for systemic change.
- Allen & Overy commits to engaging with more of the DC pro bono community and to providing pro bono legal support to a number of local charitable organizations that are concentrating on education and provision of food to area residents, through the wider relationships that we are developing with these organizations this year.
- Arnold & Porter conceived and launched a COVID project to help displaced workers obtain unemployment insurance payments and other public benefits and also began representing clients in appeals of their denial of benefits before the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. The firm will also continue its work in other areas impacted by the COVID crisis, including efforts to free and/or enhance protections for high risk incarcerated persons in jails, assisting non-profits & small businesses obtain benefits under the CARES Act, and working with partners in COVID work in such areas as eviction defense, disability rights, and immigrants’ rights.
- The Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law Pro Bono Program commits to responding to the increased legal need of our DC neighbors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by: delivering programing to law students about the access to justice crisis in our city and lawyers’ responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, growing the Program’s pro bono partnerships with legal service providers, and increasing collaboration among DC area law schools to bring additional training and pro bono volunteer opportunities to law students.
- Cooley commits to helping address the increased legal needs of the greater Washington, D.C. area by providing pro bono legal representation to local small businesses affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis, counseling nonprofits that serve affected populations, and assisting individuals and families who are seeking asylum in the United States.
- Covington will help our Washington neighbors by representing more tenants in landlord-tenant court and diversifying our housing practice to include eviction record sealing and affirmative litigation for tenants seeking remedies for housing conditions and illegal evictions. We will continue our work on a range of other issues, including life planning, unemployment insurance, and family law matters. We will also continue to staff four loaned associate positions in housing and family law practice at local legal services organizations.
- Crowell commits to meet the increased needs of its Washington neighbors by doubling within the next six months the number of matters that it undertakes in the following areas in which it currently handles pro bono work: (1) assisting survivors of domestic violence through staffing local domestic violence clinics and in pursuing civil protection orders; (2) representing D.C. prisoners, many of whom are facing increased health risks from the coronavirus, in pursuing compassionate release motions; and (3) representing tenants in affirmative housing conditions cases.
- Dechert’s DC office will increase the number of housing conditions matters they take on, as well as the number of wills and powers of attorney matters, in order to support the D.C. Represents initiative.
- The District of Columbia Government is launching a pro bono effort to encourage attorneys working for agencies across the DC government to devote time to helping residents and small businesses with their legal needs.
- DLA Piper commits to meet the increased legal needs of its Washington DC neighbors by: staffing the landlord-tenant resource center, assisting with the project to seek compassionate release for detained inmates at risk for contracting COVID, helping survivors of domestic violence, and consulting with small business.
- Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP commits to meet the increased legal needs of its Washington DC neighbors impacted by the COVID crisis by taking a number actions, including staffing legal clinics for individuals who are without homes, counseling nonprofits that serve affected populations, and representing DC prisoners facing increased health risk from the coronavirus in pursuing compassionate release motions.
- Finnegan pledges to meet the increased legal needs of our DC community by renewing our commitment to our tenants’ rights advocacy through a legal service provider partner, by continuing to seek compassionate release for DC prisoners at risk of contracting COVID-19, and by continuing to assist our neighbors who are seeking asylum in the United States.
- Fish and Richardson will deepen its relationships with existing pro bono partners and explore the creation of a new record sealing project.
- Gibson Dunn will continue to help those in our Washington, D.C. community impacted by the pandemic through our pro bono and community service efforts, including: providing pro bono advice to small business owners, staffing various remote pro bono clinics to assist immigrants and domestic violence survivors, and assisting immigrant detainees and other inmates seek parole, compassionate release, or other forms of relief from the unsafe conditions of detention.
- Goodwin will help our neighbors impacted by the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn in by providing pro bono assistance to tenants facing eviction, legal permanent residents seeking assistance filling out their citizenship applications, and small business owners and nonprofits with business related legal services.
- Hogan Lovells commits to address the legal needs of our Washington DC neighbors by: representing families in housing conditions cases, protecting survivors of domestic violence, serving as guardians ad litem for children, and assisting individuals with sealing their criminal records.
- Jenner & Block commits to increasing our number of direct representation cases of D.C. residents in targeted areas of greatest needs and actively promoting training opportunities for lawyers and staff so that volunteers are ready to take cases as need rises.
- King & Spalding commits to expanding its service to D.C. residents through increased work with our existing legal service partners to take additional eviction defense, housing conditions, family law, and domestic violence matters.
- Mayer Brown will help our Washington DC neighbors by assisting survivors of domestic violence, representing individuals and families in housing conditions cases, representing tenants in eviction defense cases, drafting life planning documents for the elderly, representing prisoners in compassionate release cases, and assisting small businesses and non-profit organizations.
- Miller & Chevalier is committed to increasing our pro bono legal support of city residents suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Morgan Lewis commits to meet the increased legal needs of its Washington DC neighbors by: representing individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States, assisting survivors of domestic violence, representing families in eviction defense cases, and assisting individuals with sealing their criminal record.
- Morrison & Foerster will increase its commitment to full-scope cases referred by a local legal services organization. It will host at least one immigration brief consultation remote clinic. Its lawyers will staff the a local project to assist people who need help with a Civil Protection Order. And it will train a new group of lawyers to assist low-income elderly people with their end-of-life planning documents.
- Paul, Weiss commits to meet the increased legal needs of its Washington, DC neighbors by representing survivors of domestic violence, individuals or families in housing cases, and individuals seeking release from detention.
- Perkins Coie LLP commits to expanding its service to D.C. residents through increased work with two local legal service providers, including partnering on a housing conditions initiative.
- Steptoe will help our neighbors impacted by the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn in various ways: through the staffing of domestic violence intake clinics, assistance on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, drafting of life planning documents for the elderly, and small business consultations.
- Squire Patton Boggs commits to addressing the increased legal needs of DC residents impacted by COVID-19 by providing advice and advocacy to non-profit, community-based organizations in the District serving these residents; assisting Veterans in need of legal guidance on a variety of issues; and increasing advocacy for racial and social justice in individual cases and in legislative reform.
- The U.S. Department of Justice Pro Bono Program commits to placing more housing, custody and consumer law cases in both 2020 and 2021 by staffing an additional DC Bar Pro Bono Center Advocacy & Justice Clinic each year, bringing our total to six Clinics each year. Additionally, the DOJ Pro Bono Program commits to providing training to all federal government attorneys and legal staff to raise awareness of the need for pro bono engagement and to prepare attorneys to volunteer.
- Venable commits to expanding its services to District residents by increasing its commitments to a local partner’s domestic violence legal services project and a local partner’s housing conditions initiative.
- White & Case commits to helping address the increased legal needs of the greater Washington, DC area by deepening its relationship with existing pro bono clients, exploring new partnerships, staffing local clinics, helping survivors of domestic violence, and representing individuals and families seeking asylum in the US.
- Wiley commits by accepting referral of at least ten poverty law cases in 2021; continuing to participate in staffing two legal service providers’ intake hotlines; accepting individual compassionate release and Second Look Act cases and related advocacy on behalf of incarcerated individuals potentially eligible for release and return to their home community; continuing to accept Guardian ad Litem assignments through a legal service provider partner on behalf of DC’s children entangled in contested custody disputes; and expanding its horizons to address additional needs of the District’s poor and traditionally underrepresented citizens as those needs arise.
- WilmerHale commits to meet the increased legal needs of its Washington DC neighbors by: seeking compassionate release for detained immigrants and inmates at risk for contracting COVID, representing family members seeking legal permanent guardianship of children in the child welfare system, assisting survivors of domestic violence, and assisting individuals with sealing their criminal record.
- Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is expanding its pro bono work to assist individuals in DC to secure court-ordered sealing of eviction orders.
Tell us how you are helping District residents address civil justice problems as a pro bono volunteer, or let us know how pro bono legal help has impacted you as a client: