The DC Bar Foundation continues to explore ways in which we can increase our impact on the legal aid needs of our community. After 40 years of private funding and 10 years of public funding, both totaling more than $50 million in support of DC’s legal aid community, we are evaluating our grant-making and exploring how we can be more influential and impactful in narrowing the access to justice gap.
This month’s newsletter provides you with information about our grant decision-making process, while also sharing some feedback from our Advisory Committee, which is specifically exploring how we can introduce innovation in our grant-making. We welcome your opinions and ideas as we explore methods to expand upon our reach in the legal aid community. Thank you for partnering with us to protect communities, families, and lives across DC.
Kirra L. Jarratt, Executive Director
The DC Bar Foundation is gearing up to award more than $5 million in grants this December, to increase access to justice for DC’s most under-served communities. As the stewards of public funding, private contributions, and interest from certain trust accounts, we pride ourselves in the integrity of our grant-making and our commitment to addressing the most pressing civil legal needs of DC’s vulnerable residents.
Our goal in awarding grants is to close the access to justice gap in DC, where 90 percent of civil legal needs go unmet. We have high standards for the organizations that we fund, ensuring low-income DC residents have access to quality legal services, free of charge. Our grantees have systems in place that align with widely accepted industry standards for promoting quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in the delivery of civil legal aid. These standards guarantee that we fund organizations that properly supervise and assess their lawyers, increase services by involving pro bono attorneys, engage and collaborate with stakeholders, and have a high likelihood of sustainability.
In an effort to close the access to justice gap in DC, we fund projects that serve a significant number of low-income DC residents and make legal services more accessible to these residents. We prioritize projects that conduct outreach and legal education trainings for the community, as well as those that avoid duplication of services being provided in the District.
Over the next three months, we will assess proposals on the basis of these standards and priorities. We look forward to see how low-income DC residents and our community will benefit from these funds. We are reminded that this would not be possible without the generosity of our leaders, volunteers, and donors.
Click here for more information about our 2018 grant programs.
This past spring, the Foundation’s Advisory Committee welcomed five new members, all with expertise in different areas: law, community development, banking, fundraising, and communications. A diverse range of professional experiences will undoubtedly help guide DCBF as we continue to think strategically about our impact on the District’s legal aid community.
A topic that piqued interest during the Advisory Committee’s most recent meeting was how the Foundation can better incentivize innovation among the city’s network of legal aid providers. A number of programs, including the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation and Legal Services Corporation’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund, have been established in recent years to provide resources and collaborative outlets for organizations addressing new and emerging legal issues. For instance, the ABA’s Center helped create a phone app to provide victims of Louisiana’s 2016 flooding disaster with information on how they could acquire legal aid and FEMA assistance. Our Advisory Committee member Tiana Russell has volunteered to lead an Innovation Task Force that, over the next few months, will explore how DCBF can learn from these initiatives and identify areas of opportunity. To inform this effort, we recently surveyed our grantee community, asking questions such as what they consider to be barriers to innovation and how DCBF can combat those barriers. The responses have been tremendously insightful and ultimately will help us identify next steps.
Other Advisory Committee members on the Task Force include Barbara O’Reilly and John Tucker.
Each month, we highlight the efforts of those who work to make the justice system more accessible for DC residents. This Partner Profile features Stanley Sher, Of Counsel at Cozen O’Connor LLP and a former member of DCBF’s Advisory Committee. Thank you for your longtime service to the committee, Mr. Sher!
Cozen O’Connor LLP
Years on the Job
Our law firm (Sher & Blackwell) merged with Cozen O’Connor in 2010. Prior to that, I have been in private practice in DC since 1960.
Where did you grow up?
What brought you to DC?
Work for the Government (which I never did).
What was your first job in DC, and what did you learn?
Worked for a small law firm where the senior partner stressed, “Treat each client as if it’s your only one.”
Making ‘to do’ lists.
Tie–Casablanca, The Magnificent Seven
So’s Your Mom
Favorite Vacation Spot
Door County, Wisconsin
One Item from your Bucket List
Next up-trip to New Zealand
Travel, reading and time with my grandchildren
Your News Source(s)
Washington Post, WSJ, NYT, CNBC, Jn of Commerce
One thing (other than your phone) you never leave the house without is…
Most rewarding element of your work
Mentoring young lawyers who exceed expectations.
If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would be a…
Legal aid is important to me because …
Addresses and redresses unfairness.
Your dream for our legal system is…
There is no longer a need for any DCBF’s grantees
The most pressing civil legal aid issue in DC is…
Affordable, safe and decent housing.
Little known fact about your organization
Growing rapidly yet maintaining its values/small firm culture.
Would you like to tell us about your role in DC’s legal aid community? Fill out our Partner Profile Survey and share your story in an upcoming newsletter.
Join us on October 11th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., as we recognize the work of our grantees and LRAP recipients, as well as the ongoing support of our loyal donors and volunteers. Thank you to our generous host, Alston & Bird LLP!
Please RSVP here by October 4, 2017.
We are seeking nominations for the 2018 Jerrold Scoutt Prize, which is awarded annually to an exceptional legal services attorney in the District of Columbia. Nominations will be accepted until November 17, 2017.
Learn more about the Scoutt Prize and its nomination process here.