Crowell & Moring Becomes a Founding Member of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program's Senior Attorney Initiative
Washington, D.C. - November 3, 2010: Seeking to tap a valuable resource and help thinly stretched legal services programs to meet burgeoning client needs, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program and the D.C. Access to Justice Commission have joined forces with leading area law firms to launch the Senior Attorney Initiative for Legal Services (SAILS) Project. Crowell & Moring LLP has become a founding law firm partner of the initiative.
"Many area lawyers are approaching the stage in their careers where they are ready to begin thinking about retirement and maybe to slow down their practices, but they still have a lot—literally decades of experience—to offer the legal community," explained Marc Fleischaker, chair emeritus of Arent Fox, who is leading the project.
Working with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program and the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, each participating law firm will institutionalize a senior lawyers program through which senior attorneys will undertake substantial pro bono projects.
"SAILS will ensure that senior lawyers can use their considerable talents and experience to address the urgent needs of our most vulnerable community members while still remaining connected with and supported by their firms," said Ronald Flagg, president of the District of Columbia Bar. "This project does more than connect individual senior lawyers with pro bono opportunities. The firms themselves are partners in this vital initiative, allowing the project to make a lasting change in the way firms manage this extraordinary volunteer resource."
Two firms are already working with two legal services providers on a joint project to benefit homeless and low-income veterans in the District of Columbia. In order to institutionalize the initiative, one firm changed its internal policies to provide billable hours credit for work performed on the project. Participating firms are reviewing their policies to ensure that they support senior lawyer efforts.
The recession created a funding crisis in the legal services community that persists today. A report released last year by the D.C. Access to Justice Commission and the D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers showed that the legal services community had lost approximately 25 percent of its funding due to the recession, leading to the loss of 12 percent of attorneys and nearly 40 percent of critical non-attorney staff. As a result, thousands of indigent District residents did not get help with urgent legal issues. This dramatic contraction of the network occurred as client need – and the urgency of that need – is rising.
"The justice gap has grown to an intolerable level," said Peter Edelman, chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission. "Too many poor individuals are navigating perilous legal problems without the benefit of a lawyer. The SAILS project will infuse critical resources into the legal services network, both by increasing individual representation and by tackling systemic issues that undermine the welfare of indigent residents." Firms are expected to take on a wide array of projects, including high-volume representation, systemic litigation, and legislative advocacy.
James Sandman, chair of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee, added that the SAILS project is a groundbreaking initiative that could become a national model. "Law firms in the District of Columbia have long led the nation in their commitment to pro bono work," he said. "We are hoping that this initiative, which is informed by the efforts of others around the country, will help us develop best practices for marshaling this extraordinary resource on a long-term basis."
Eleven leading firms have stepped forward to be the vanguard of the project. "We are so grateful to these eleven firms for their leadership and vision," said Andrew H. Marks, a partner at Crowell & Moring LLP and a member of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission who sits on the project's Coordinating Committee. "The unique models they are developing will enable many other firms – of all sizes – to participate in this exciting initiative and create a ripple effect throughout the legal community."
Founding law firm partners of the SAILS program are: Arent Fox LLP; Arnold & Porter LLP; Covington & Burling LLP; Crowell & Moring LLP; Dickstein Shapiro LLP; DLA Piper; Hogan Lovells US LLP; McDermott Will & Emery; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Steptoe
& Johnson LLP; and Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.
Crowell & Moring LLP is an international law firm with nearly 500 lawyers representing clients in litigation and arbitration, regulatory, and transactional matters. The firm is internationally recognized for its representation of Fortune 500 companies in high-stakes litigation, as well as its ongoing commitment to pro bono service and diversity. The firm has offices in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Anchorage, London, and Brussels.
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