Sen. Durbin Speaks at Launch of D.C. Affordable Law Firm

October 28, 2015 — “Her name was Wanda Green, and she scared me to death,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., describing his first legal aid client. Durbin (F’66, L’69), who spoke at the October 28th launch of the D.C. Affordable Law Firm (DCALF) in Washington, D.C., was just out of law school and doing pro bono civil work when he found himself with Green, who was seeking a divorce. Durbin was determined to help Green, but he quickly realized that there was an imbalance. “It was Wanda’s fourth divorce — and my first!”

It was a humbling experience, “but I won’t forget it, and you won’t forget your clients,” said Durbin, addressing the six fellows who form the inaugural class of DCALF. The fellows have been training since August 31 before taking their first clients December 1.  Durbin has spoken previously about the need for innovative solutions in closing the justice gap.

DCALF is a low bono law firm with 501(c)3 status that will provide affordable, high quality legal services to D.C. residents who do not qualify for free legal aid and to small businesses and nonprofits in the District. Georgetown Law is providing 15-month fellowships and a cost-free LL.M. degree to the six fellows. Arent Fox is providing space for the firm and physical and technological support. DLA Piper is taking the lead in training the new lawyers and establishing the firm’s policies and procedures. The three organizations collectively will provide more than $1 million in financial and pro bono support annually over the next three years. 

Approximately 100,000 people in the District lack access to legal representation in civil matters, according to a report prepared by the D.C. Access to Justice Commission. “Our motto is, ‘Law is but the means, justice is the end,’” said Dean William M. Treanor, who introduced Durbin at the launch. “But if there’s no lawyer — if you’re representing yourself in landlord-tenant or immigration proceedings — there’s also no justice.” 



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