Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate the hard work that you do on behalf of low-income Americans. I hope you understand how much the Department supports and appreciates your pro bono efforts. Your pro bono work brings our esteemed legal system and the power of justice to people who otherwise would go without it. You represent the best of our profession. And I am proud that you, as DOJ attorneys, are making a difference in people’s lives.
As you may know, the Department of Justice Pro Bono Program was the first of its kind in the federal government. Created in 1996, it was a bold experiment. Back then, few government attorneys did pro bono work. Those that did worked on their own, without direction for finding appropriate opportunities, or an understanding of the many applicable ethical obligations. Many government attorneys became discouraged and, as a result, fewer would attempt a second pro bono project. Much has changed since that time, and those changes can be traced to the progress of this program.
Today DOJ’s Pro Bono Program proudly hosts numerous events in DC and around the country. Here in DC, we staff the DC Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice & Referral Clinic seven times each year, and help place dozens of pro bono cases from the DC Bar’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic. I know many of you have participated in both of these opportunities. Organizations such as the Children’s Law Center, the DC Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Legal Aid Society and many others, look to our program and DOJ attorneys to help their low-income clients.
Having pioneered the concept of the agency pro bono program, DOJ shares its experience and its resources with all federal agencies. As chair of the Federal Government Pro Bono Program, DOJ assists fifty other agencies by offering the services of its Pro Bono Program Manager and its activities and events to any interested federal agency or attorney. Thanks to the DOJ Pro Bono Program, other agencies now have sophisticated programs as well, making the federal government one of the largest sources of pro bono volunteers in the DC area.
You are on the front lines of this Program. Your efforts demonstrate the quality of Department attorneys and legal staff. Indeed, your pro bono service is even more laudable because of your government service.
Lawyers in the private sector are often able to work on pro bono projects as part of their regular work responsibilities and with full use of the resources of their law firms. You, on the other hand, take on the responsibility of this extra work on your own time and rely on your own creativity to obtain necessary resources. You are truly giving of yourselves, and for that reason, it is all the more impressive to me.
The work is not easy, but it is rewarding. You help people avoid homelessness by challenging illegal evictions. You keep families stable by helping them with custody arrangements. You provide safety to victims of domestic violence by obtaining protective orders for them. You give people peace of mind by drafting their wills and powers of attorney. You guide our next generation by teaching students about our legal system and inspiring them to aspire to be legal professionals themselves. Through you, people find hope.
So thank you. At the Department of Justice, we are dedicated to the pursuit of justice for all and to making our legal system work for everyone. This is a goal worthy of our finest efforts and I am proud that our Pro Bono Program is helping you as you rise to this challenge. You make a difference for so many families who, without you, would have no legal assistance. You are taking action, making sure that the system works for everyone. Thank you for your service, your commitment, and your compassion. Keep up the good work!