The pandemic led to a surge in the need for legal services last year for many who couldn’t afford it, and D.C. law firms stepped up.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center reports 65 law firms across the District devoted a record-breaking 1.05 million hours of pro bono work in 2020 to assist D.C. residents in need of legal help. In addition, 39 firms engaged in innovative, collaborative pro bono projects, such as a collaboration between the Duane Morris firm and the Veterans Consortium.
“They launched a free legal clinic for women veterans, providing an opportunity for female veterans to speak with female attorneys in a safe space,” said Darryl Maxwell, acting executive director of the D.C. Pro Bono Center. “Another project, Crowell & Moring started a racial justice pro bono task force. They committed $1 million in pro bono legal services hours to advancing racial equity and justice,”
Another pro bono project at Arnold and Porter was focused on groups that were among the most impacted by the pandemic.
“Restaurant workers and workers in hospitality who were just having a whale of a time. They counseled a lot of workers from hotels, parking garages, child care institutions, hair salons,” Maxwell said.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center says 9,328 D.C. attorneys engaged in pro bono work last year, with each attorney contributing an average of 91 pro bono hours.
That free legal advice came at a time when law firms were struggling themselves.
The Pro Bono Center’s Pro Bono Initiative Report said: “Given that the pandemic had significant economic ramifications for law firms across the country, the consistency of the signatory firms’ pro bono efforts this past year was not guaranteed. While more is still needed, the signatory firms’ recognition that the pandemic demanded that their pro bono efforts continue unabated is to be commended.”
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s full Pro Bono Initiative Report is available online.