At an event Wednesday hosted by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, law firm partners, a federal judge and the D.C. Bar president stressed the importance of pro bono work.
A couple hundred attended the John Burke Pro Bono Breakfast at the Capital Hilton in Washington to hear Marc Fleischaker of Arent Fox, Ronald Flagg of Sidley Austin, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Gladys Kessler and Darrell Mottley, D.C. Bar President and partner at Banner & Witcoff.
Kessler encouraged the younger lawyers and associates in the room to take on pro bono work as not only a way to gain more courtroom experience but as a way to give back to a community, many of whose residents are in desperate need.
“At the end of the day you will get great satisfaction when you know you have made their lives a little more bearable and have enabled them to go on with their lives in a productive way,” Kessler said.
After the speakers, a panel of project directors spoke about the pro bono cases each of their organizations had handled in the past year.
Elaine Gardner, project director for the Disability Rights Project, spoke about a class action settlement with the U.S. Postal Service to ensure better communication with deaf employees in emergency situations. Magan Whyte, director of the Fair Housing Project, cited predatory lending and discrimination cases her group handled in the past year.
Laura Varela, director of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, talked about asylum work and sexual harassment cases involving immigrant women. She said that often, because of cultural differences, immigrant women are unaware that sexual harassment doesn't have to be tolerated in the workplace.
Kessler’s final words resonated with the crowd.
“You may not be able to change the world in its entirety,” Kessler said. “But there is no question you can make the world better for a lot of individuals who matter by providing…pro bono services in this city and I hope you all do that.”