The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the legal challenges facing our already-vulnerable populations, increasing the need for civil legal help.
For over two decades, I have worked with a variety of legal and community organizations and have had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from a diverse array of leaders. These experiences have influenced my priorities and prepared me to be an effective leader. I am energized by the meaningful and inspiring work in which our Bar and legal organizations are engaged, and I am excited about this opportunity to contribute my talents.
As D.C. Bar President, I will work diligently to fulfill the vision for the Bar set forth in the Strategic Plan approved by the Board of Governors on June 9, 2020. In particular, I will focus on the following priorities:
(1) Expand access to justice for those unable to afford legal representation
The D.C. Bar has long been a leader in providing pro bono services and supporting access to justice. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the legal challenges facing our already-vulnerable populations, increasing the need for civil legal help.
During my time on the boards of the D.C. Bar Foundation and the Women’s Bar Association Foundation, I saw first-hand the incredible work our civil legal services providers do, the desperate need in the community, and how important it is to continue to provide funding for these vital services. In these roles, and as Chair and a long-time member of the Development Committee of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center Presidents Reception, and as a member of the Steering Committee of Whitman-Walker Clinic Legal Services Going the Extra Mile reception, I led significant fundraising campaigns to benefit our civil legal services providers. The American Bar Foundation, of which I am a board member and National Fellows officer, is partnering with other organizations to fund access to justice research and create a network of scholars to identify proposals for increasing access to justice that will be effective, scalable, and sustainable.
I have represented clients pro bono and developed opportunities for others to volunteer their services to individuals who cannot afford an attorney. During my term as President, the Women’s Bar Association collaborated with other stakeholders to establish and staff the D.C. Superior Court Self-Help Center Pilot Project, which received the D.C. Bar’s prestigious Frederick B. Abramson Award for a committee or project that, through innovation, initiative, or unusual dedication, has resulted in a significant benefit to the Bar and its individual members. As WBA Foundation President, I helped to establish an annual fellowship for area law students to work with local legal service providers to address the legal needs of women and girls in the community.
I will leverage my experience to help the Bar continue to support and promote our legal services providers and work to expand access to justice for those unable to afford legal representation by:
- Collaborating with the Access to Justice Commission, the D.C. Bar Foundation, and other civil legal services funders to continue to ensure critical financial support.
- Supporting the work of the Pro Bono Center and other legal service providers, and coordinating with the D.C. Courts to explore ways to increase legal representation for those who cannot afford a lawyer.
- Working with the voluntary bar associations and the D.C. Bar Communities on creative projects to encourage attorneys to contribute time and resources to pro bono work.
(2) Promote greater diversity and inclusion within the Bar and the legal profession
One of the strengths of the D.C. Bar is our diverse membership. As the largest unified bar in the country, our members hail from across the country and internationally; we are solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, and government and public interest attorneys; we are of varying races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientation, and backgrounds. In this diversity lies our collective strength. The various perspectives and experiences each of us brings to the table are critical in ensuring access to justice, improving the legal system, and empowering lawyers to achieve excellence. They are vital to encouraging new generations of lawyers who seek role models and mentors with whom they can identify.
Throughout my career, I have supported efforts to promote and advance women and diverse attorneys who historically have been under-represented in the leadership ranks of the legal profession. As an attorney and mother, I have been active in the women lawyers’ initiatives at my firms and developed informal mentoring relationships with many women and diverse attorneys. I advocated for flexible working arrangements that would allow parents to care for their children without adversely affecting compensation or the opportunity for advancement. As a leader in the Women’s Bar Association, I supported our initiatives on the advancement and retention of women and women attorneys of color that culminated in a series of recommendations for law firms and corporate law departments.
I will continue the important work of fostering an inclusive environment that welcomes and values the unique talents and contributions of our diverse membership by:
- Encouraging the participation of women and diverse attorneys in the D.C. Bar’s John Payton Leadership Academy.
- Collaborating with the voluntary bars and D.C. Bar Communities to provide mentoring and promote leadership opportunities for women and diverse attorneys.
- Soliciting input to ensure that the D.C. Bar's programs and structures reflect the diverse interests of our membership.
(3) Support our voluntary bar associations and D.C. Bar Communities
Our voluntary bar associations and D.C. Bar Communities provide invaluable services to our members. They offer opportunities for substantive legal training, leadership development, and professional advancement. They encourage conversations around timely and critical topics, such as the recent incidents in our country of hatred and violence against diverse communities.
Having served in leadership roles in a number of voluntary bar associations and as liaison to several D.C. Bar sections (now communities), I recognize their importance in supporting our shared values of service, integrity, support for the rule of law, and advancing access to justice. I deeply appreciate the richness of their programs and their importance to the vibrancy of our legal community. The goodwill and collegiality that these organizations generate is a powerful antidote to the isolation, substance abuse, and mental health challenges that threaten members of our profession, and which have been especially problematic during the pandemic.
I will continue to support our voluntary bars and foster collaboration and cooperation with our D.C. Bar Communities by:
- Exploring opportunities to increase the visibility of and encourage participation in our D.C. Bar Communities and voluntary bar associations, especially among young lawyers.
- Leveraging the resources of the D.C. Bar to support continued robust programming among our D.C. Bar Communities and voluntary bar associations.
- Encouraging collaboration among our D.C. Bar Communities and voluntary bar associations to ensure that we identify and address challenges facing our members, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.