The Antitrust Division’s Pro Bono Program: Spotlight on Jay Owen
The Antitrust Division has a Division-wide pro bono program designed to provide legal services to citizens in need of counsel and representation in court. Under the guidance of Christine Hill and Katrina Rouse, who have served as the Antitrust Division’s Pro Bono Coordinators since 2012, Division attorneys and paralegals have the opportunity to participate in more than 20 pro bono programs that have been vetted by the Department of Justice’s Pro Bono Program Manager. The programs offer a unique opportunity for Division staff to individually choose how they would like to offer their services to the community. Staff members in the Antitrust Division’s Pro Bono Program have volunteered in local nonprofit clinics, overseen individual cases of interest, and provided expertise and guidance for clients who lack the financial means to acquire the necessary legal services. Since 1998, the Antitrust Division has worked closely with the D.C. Bar’s Advice and Referral Clinic, which seeks to provide more than 20,000 low-income citizens annually with claim assessments and general information regarding a variety of civil complaints. Cases typically involve family disputes, landlord-tenant relations, domestic violence claims, unfair employment practices, and local small business complaints.
Over the last year, a significant number of Division attorneys and paralegals have carried on this tradition of pro bono service. Jay Owen, an attorney in the Antitrust Division’s Litigation II Section who has been with the Department since 2007, is one example. He recently received the 2013 Government Pro Bono Award from the Washington Council of Lawyers for his efforts in handling more than 150 cases over the past six years as a pro bono volunteer at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. Owen conducts four or five intakes each year at the clinic, offering his services to clients who come through the door with legal issues on a first-come, first-served basis. While the majority of cases are open and closed within days or weeks, Owen occasionally handles cases that last six months.
Owen began his pro bono work during law school at George Washington University. While there, he became interested in the Legal Clinic for the Homeless because of the program’s unique support structure, which enables him to get involved in multiple cases without having to simultaneously oversee all of the administrative duties. Owen believes that the Antitrust Division’s support has been crucial for his pro bono activities. “The Division has been great, everyone has been very supportive of my efforts,” said Owen. “I came in and told them what I wanted to do, and they gave me the go-ahead.”
Having witnessed Owen’s impact at the Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Antitrust Division Pro Bono Coordinator Hill is helping to establish a new pro bono program for Division lawyers to offer their free time at the clinic. A large number of attorneys have signed on to volunteer with this program. The new initiative is one of many efforts that Hill is overseeing as part of the Division’s commitment to inspiring paralegals and attorneys to actively participate in pro bono work.
“The need for legal services for those that do not have the ability to pay for them is overwhelming,” said Hill. In addition, Hill believes that the pro bono program offers volunteers critical professional development opportunities that might not otherwise be available. “Many of the young paralegals and attorneys get to be in court, run their own cases, interact with clients, and write their own briefs,” said Hill.
Owen has a simple message for those considering pro bono practice: “The reality is that you can do a lot of good in an hour or two, doing high impact work without a burdening time commitment.”