Become a Volunteer
If you would like to volunteer with the DCVLP to provide pro bono civil legal services to low-income DC residents in family law cases, contact Mary Ryan, Program & Outreach Manager, DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAQs About Volunteering
1. What types of cases do DCVLP attorneys handle?
DCVLP attorneys handle family law cases in three project areas: domestic violence, guardian ad litem and foster parent/caregiver advocacy. DCVLP attorneys help survivors of domestic violence achieve safety and independence by representing them in civil protection orders and in custody, divorce, child support and immigration cases. Our volunteer lawyers serve as guardians ad litem for children in high-conflict custody cases. We also represent foster and adoptive parents in adoption, guardianship, licensing and placement matters; as well as third-party caregivers in custody cases.
2. Can I still handle pro bono cases if my DC Bar membership is on “Inactive” status, or I am a member of another state's bar?
Yes. Under DC Court of Appeals Rule 49(c)(9)(A), enrolled, inactive members of the DC Bar can handle pro bono cases with us, provided that they follow certain requirements. For more information, visit the Court of Appeals' website at www.dcappeals.gov/dccourts/appeals/cupl/index.jsp.
The DCVLP was recently approved as a specifically authorized court program, which allows volunteer lawyers who are members in good standing of another state's bar to take family law cases on a pro bono basis with us in DC Superior Court, provided that they follow certain requirements. For more information, see Administrative Order 11-12 at www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/superior/admin_orders/admin_orders.jsp.
3. Can I volunteer for cases if I don’t have experience in the area of family law or litigation?
Yes. The DCVLP and our legal services organization partners provide training and mentoring in the relevant areas of law. We pair each attorney with co-counsel on every case to provide support and back-up. We also host an annual trial skills refresher course, as well as monthly Lunch & Learn meetings on topics of interest to the practice of pro bono family law, such as evidence, practice tips and online legal resources.
4. What is it like handling DCVLP pro bono cases?
We have found our cases to be compelling and sometimes heartbreaking. They are also tremendously satisfying, and never boring. Working on issues such as custody, adoption or domestic violence -- where the stakes are very high and where we can help our clients in immediate, tangible ways -- is tremendously rewarding.
5. What is the time commitment?
As little or as much as you decide, depending on the type of case you handle. For instance, representing a domestic violence survivor in an action to obtain a civil protection order against an abuser can take as little as two weeks. Cases such as custody or adoption extend over a longer period of time, but often include weeks in which there is no activity.
6. What are the benefits of taking cases through the DCVLP?
Handling DCVLP pro bono cases is an opportunity to use your law degree to help the community, while working with a group of similarly-situated lawyers who provide support and collegiality. For those who may wish to reenter the job market in the future, handling pro bono cases provides an invaluable opportunity to hone your legal and professional skills while giving back to those in need.