Voting is underway in this year's D.C. Bar elections for general and sections positions. The two lawyers vying for president-elect – the precursor post to serving as president – carried a bevy of endorsements into the election, which began April 30 and ends May 24.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP partner Brigida Benitez and Jenner & Block partner Lorelie Masters are this year's candidates for the bar's top job. The winner will serve as president-elect for a year before spending a second year as president, and then will serve a third year as immediate past president.
Both candidates have made expanding pro bono work and promoting access to justice top priorities. Benitez, in an interview today, said she wants to find ways the bar can be more creative in providing services and support partnerships with the legal services community. "It's something where the bar has been a leader, but I think the need is as great as ever," she said.
Masters said in an interview today she'd like to focus on increasing funding for local access to justice programs and expanding pro bono partnerships. "I hope to expand the availability of pro bono services generally," she said.
Benitez and Masters have touted endorsements from across the bar. Benitez secured support from eight past bar presidents, according to her website, as well as nods from lawyers in private practice, academia, politics and the judiciary.
Masters listed endorsements from several dozen lawyers as well and won support from local voluntary bar associations, including the Washington Council of Lawyers, South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, D.C. Area Inc., as well as the Military Spouse J.D. Network.
The D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers endorsed both candidates, saying in its announcement that they were "committed to increasing access to justice for low-income and disadvantaged people in the District of Columbia."
Benitez's practice at Steptoe includes global dispute resolution, compliance and internal investigations. She's served within the D.C. Bar in a variety of roles, currently as a member of the Board of Governors and on the budget committee. She is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
Benitez's local leadership experience includes serving as past president of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia and a member of the board of directors of the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia. She's also served in leadership positions with the American Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Foundation, and Republican National Lawyers Association.
"I believe that I bring the vision, the energy, the track record of leadership and the demonstrated commitment to public service that's important and necessary to leading the D.C. Bar," Benitez said. Her platform includes finding way to get more members involved in bar activities and pro bono service.
Masters is a member of Jenner's insurance litigation and counseling practice. She's a member of the bar's Board of Governors and has served in a number of committees, most recently the steering committee of the litigation section.
Masters is a past president of the Women's Bar Association of the District of Columbia and has been part of a legal effort to push for voting rights for D.C. residents. Her other leadership experience includes serving with the American Bar Association, National Association of Women Lawyers, American College of Coverage and Extracontractual Counsel, and American Law Institute.
"I would love to bring all of that experience in those different bar associations…all of those connections and wealth of background to the presidency of the D.C. Bar," Masters said. Her priorities if elected include finding ways to support new and returning members of the legal community and creating a written history of the bar.
Information on candidates for other positions and on how to vote is available on the bar's website.