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Welcome back from summer! Please mark your calendars for the two wonderful BAMC events being held in September. First up is the BAMC Social Committee’s first happy hour sponsored by Planet Depos on September 5, 2019 starting at 5:30p.m. at Bar Louie in Rockville. This is a free event for our members so don’t miss the opportunity to catch up with your colleagues after summer break. This happy hour is always well attended so come early to find a good spot before it gets crowded! Then next get ready to do some good and volunteer for the Inspiration Walk/Run presented by the BAMC Community Outreach Committee in partnership with Special Olympics. The event will be hosted by Georgetown Prep on September 29, 2019 starting at 9:00 a.m. We need volunteers to help set up, work the event, clean up, as well as run/walk 2k or run a 5k. See the flyer for sign up in this month’s Newsletter. This is a fantastic opportunity to give back to Montgomery County, participate with your colleagues in a Bar Association event, and spend time with your family. There are lots of easy jobs kids can do (and get their community service hours) and my husband and children are already fired up to help out.
Remember to hold the date for our first Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland luncheon which will be held on October 10, 2019 at its new location, Trapezaria restaurant, in Rockville. The Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera will be our speaker. Thank you to everyone who has called or emailed me to express enthusiasm about our revamped luncheon. I am so pleased people are excited about it as our bar luncheon committee worked hard to make the year’s luncheons enjoyable.
In furtherance of my commitment to our county doing more pro bono work going forward, I wanted to highlight the extraordinary pro bono efforts of two of our bar association members. Donna Rismiller of Rismiller Law Group founded DVS Legal Services (which stands for domestic violence legal survivor legal services), which is a nonprofit organization. The mission of DVS Legal Services is to help families connect to existing legal services and if they do not qualify, then help them find another way to get legal representation. Amy Palumbo runs DVS Legal Services and also works at the Family Justice Center. Ms. Palumbo first looks to see if clients can qualify for existing legal services in the County and she helps folks apply and makes sure they get into the program for which they are applying. If the clients do not qualify, there is an attorney on staff at DVS Legal Services to take cases. DVS Legal Services also has a pool of attorneys who are willing to provide low bono legal representation. Ms. Palumbo was able to assist 42 people in July of this year alone. Donna’s firm takes on many of the cases – the ones that tend to be complex and therefore, more draining. Donna requires that the attorneys in her firm take a case from DVS Legal Services pro bono and she counts their hours on the case towards their billable hour requirement with the firm. In addition, her attorneys are expected to do 50 hours of pro bono work annually. DVS Legal Services would love to have more attorneys on the low bono or pro bono roster so please contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org to put your name on the list.
Jo Fogel and her two part-time associates have between five and 10 active pro bono cases year-round. If a client comes to her for an initial consultation whom she thinks would qualify for the County’s pro bono program, she sends them to the Bar Association and tells them to tell Julie’s staff to assign her the case if the client qualifies. This allows Jo to take on pro bono work for BAMC but also pre-screen who she is representing. Jo has found that the pro bono cases are a great opportunity to train associates – they learn skills such as how to interview witnesses, formulate case strategy, and take a deposition. The lack of financial resources forces Jo and the trainee attorney to be more creative about how to either get money for a deposition or how else to obtain the information. Jo has the fantastic suggestion of allowing an attorney outside your firm who wants litigation experience to second chair a pro bono case with you. There are new lawyers on the DSG listserve or MSBA listserve who would love to take a case with a more experienced lawyer in order to get litigation experience. It is a win for the more experienced attorney as you get to do pro bono work, mentor, and get the legwork of a case done. The casework also gives you something concrete to do in the mentoring relationship.
Both Donna and Jo are doing what we should all emulate – try to do whatever you think you can to improve our legal community. What type of law do you know best? What interests you about the law? There is pro bono work that needs to be done whatever your passion is so go find it and get started! And please sign the BAMC pro bono pledge included in the Newsletter again this month and donate an amount equal to an hour’s worth of your billable time. This month, we will be emailing everyone who signed the pledge about the current opportunities to fulfill your commitment. You will never regret the hours you spent using your skills to help someone less fortunate than you.