A look at how DCALF "fills a critical void where folks are otherwise left to go it alone in navigating the justice system."
DCALF LL.M. Fellowship
DC Affordable Law Firm
The working poor in the U.S.—those with incomes that fall between 200%-400% above the federal poverty level—are often on their own when seeking access to justice, finding themselves ineligible for free legal services yet unable to afford private counsel. In D.C., over 100,000 residents fall within that income range. As a result, nine out of ten of D.C.’s working poor to appear pro se in legal proceedings that have potentially significant and long-term consequences.
In response to this access to justice gap, and recognizing the need for accessible legal assistance for D.C. residents, in 2015 Georgetown University Law Center, Arent Fox LLP, and DLA Piper LLP joined to create DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF). DCALF, a charitable non-profit, charges modest fees consistent with a client’s ability to pay in a variety of civil practice areas.
In 2020, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) joined as a fourth partner, allowing DCALF to serve more D.C. residents. Through the legal representation provided by nine post-graduate fellows from Georgetown and UDC, DCALF serves hundreds of D.C. residents each year, meeting its mission of providing high quality, affordable legal services to D.C. residents with unmet legal needs who do not qualify for free legal services but who cannot afford prevailing legal rates.
The DCALF LL.M. Fellowship Program
The DCALF Fellowship is open to six Georgetown law graduates and three University of District of Columbia law graduates. The Fellowship spans 15 months, beginning in the Fall semester. The program begins with a 12-week training program designed to prepare recent law graduates for a civil legal practice. Fellows are trained in the substantive laws relating to DCALF’s practice areas and in a range of lawyering and litigation skills. Past trainings have included:
• Counseling & interviewing
• Custody, divorce, child support
• Direct & cross examination
• Negotiation skills & strategies
• Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status laws
• Fact investigation
• Opening statements & closing arguments
• Trauma-informed lawyering
• Estate planning
• Law firm management
• Implicit bias
Following the training program, fellows begin providing client representation. At the conclusion of the 15-month fellowship, fellows receive an LL.M. in Advocacy degree.
DCALF’s Practice Areas
Family Law, including:
• Child Custody and Visitation
• Child Support
• Custodial Power of Attorney
• Guardian ad Litem representation
Immigration Law, including:
• Applications for Permanent Residency
• Applications for Citizenship
• Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
• U Visas
Estate Planning, including:
• Financial Powers of Attorney
• Medical Powers of Attorney
Post-Fellowship Employment Outcomes
DCALF alumni have gone on to work for a variety of public and private employers, including:
• Juvenile Law Center
• DC Volunteer Lawyers Project
• Disability Rights DC
• Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
• Superior Court of the District of Columbia (clerkships)
• Family law firms
• University Title IX offices
As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country in late March 2020, DCALF, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia launched the Family Law Assistance Network (FLAN), a free and confidential legal service for emergency family law matters
With the coronavirus pandemic upending the economy and pushing some of Washington D.C.’s most vulnerable families into poverty, DCALF is expanding both its staff and services to meet the needs of its clients, half of whom have fully or partially lost their income this year.