The District of Columbia Bar was presented with the 2016 Harrison Tweed Award during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco for the long-term excellence of its Pro Bono Center. This award, created in 1956, recognizes the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services for those living in poverty or criminal defense services for indigents. Named for a leader in the promotion of free legal services to those living in poverty, the Harrison Tweed Award is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLIAD) and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
The D.C. Pro Bono Center was created in 1988 to help those who could not afford a lawyer and has become the largest provider of pro bono legal assistance offering the widest range of services in the District of Columbia. Each year, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center recruits, trains, and supports volunteer lawyers to provide approximately 20,000 individuals, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses with free legal information, resources, brief advice, and/or full representation.
Through neighborhood clinics, court-based resource centers, and direct representation projects, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center and its volunteers help people living in poverty stay in their homes, rebuild their families, and access vital public benefits to secure basic necessities. To strengthen the safety net of service providers that low income residents rely on for food, shelter, education, and job training, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s volunteers provide pro bono counsel and legal training to nonprofit organizations. They also assist small businesses that create jobs and contribute to the economy in struggling neighborhoods.
In speaking of the award-winning activities of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, SCLAID Chair Judge Lora Livingston stated: “The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center has worked to identify gaps in the District’s legal service delivery system and develop programs to increase access to justice. Given the breadth of services provided, the range of issues addressed, and the number of individuals assisted annually, the District of Columbia Bar, through the work of its Pro Bono Center, is a most worthy recipient of this year’s Harrison Tweed Award.”