Arent Fox, Georgetown Law, and DLA Piper Create an Affordable, Nonprofit Law Firm in the District of Columbia
DCALF will provide affordable, high-quality legal services to residents within the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia who have unmet legal needs because they do not qualify for free legal aid and are unable to pay prevailing legal rates, and to small businesses and nonprofits serving the District’s distressed communities. The firm will not work for free, known as pro bono. Instead, it is pioneering in the field of low bono — providing high quality legal services at affordable fees to low income people who do not qualify for free legal services.
“We are proud to join this partnership,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor. “The law firm will enable people of very limited means to receive the legal representation they need. We hope that DCALF will inspire others in the legal profession, that it will be a model that others will follow, and that it will promote greater collaboration between the private bar, the academic community and legal aid providers in confronting the access to justice gap.”
Georgetown Law, Arent Fox, and DLA Piper will each make major commitments to the nonprofit law firm. Georgetown Law will provide 15-month fellowships to six of its graduating law students to work in the law firm in each of the next three academic years, and offer a related cost-free LL.M program to lawyers in the firm. Arent Fox will provide space for the firm and related physical and technological support, along with pro bono support for the lawyers. DLA Piper, with assistance from Georgetown Law and Arent Fox, will take the lead role in developing training for the new lawyers and creating the nonprofit law firm’s policies and procedures. Both Arent Fox and DLA Piper will also commit substantial pro bono time from the firms’ lawyers to mentor and supervise DCALF’s new lawyers. The anticipated opening date is October 2015.
“We’re thrilled to host DCALF in Arent Fox’s DC office,” said Marc L. Fleischaker, partner and chair emeritus at Arent Fox. “This new firm will help meet the needs of DC residents seeking affordable legal services. We hope it will also encourage more lawyers to devote their careers to serving these populations by providing the level and quality of training, mentoring and supervision necessary to ensure that high quality services are rendered.”
Sheldon Krantz, a retired DLA Piper attorney and an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law, will serve as the executive director of the firm during its first year on a pro bono basis. The three organizations collectively will be providing significantly more than $1 million in financial and pro bono support annually over the next three years.
“There are tens of thousands of DC residents who struggle with legal crises such as eviction, debt collection, and family disputes such as divorce and child custody; as well as the myriad issues faced by vulnerable populations like the elderly,” said Benjamin Boyd, co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s Washington, DC office. “In our complex legal system, a lawyer’s assistance can make an enormous difference on these issues, but a substantial slice of DC residents neither qualify for free representation nor can they afford a lawyer. This gap in access to justice is wide and DCALF will work to fill that void.”
Aside from serving a client population with unmet legal needs, lawyers working in the firm will have the opportunity to receive extensive skills training from Georgetown Law professors and seasoned DC area lawyers, as well as advice on client relations and business and case management-training. Georgetown clinical faculty and Arent Fox and DLA Piper lawyers will provide mentoring and supervision of the new lawyers.
As Krantz notes, “At the end of their fellowship, along with their months of training, these new lawyers will have something most of their peers lack after only one year of practice — first chair dispute resolution, negotiation and transactional experience, and the gratitude of clients who would otherwise not have a lawyer to help them with their legal needs.”