Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Equal Justice, Equal Responsibility: the 2011 Generous Associates Campaign

BJ Shannon, Alston & Bird LLP

As we approach the half-way point of this year’s Generous Associates Campaign, I’ve been thinking about what has kept me so enthusiastic about the Campaign for so many years now.

I’m reminded of a recent conversation with a non-lawyer friend who asked what Legal Aid does with the money raised during the Campaign. I explained that, even though we often hear on television that “you have the right to an attorney,” you actually only have this right in criminal cases. Then I asked, what happens if you need to go to court because your landlord is wrongfully threatening eviction? What happens if your Medicaid benefits are suddenly cut off? What happens if your children’s father stops paying child support? Now imagine that you must provide for yourself and two children with an annual income of barely $10,000, so you can’t possibly afford a lawyer. Are you prepared to fight these battles alone?

This is, of course, what “equal justice” is all about, and why Legal Aid’s work is so important. It’s also why it is so important for us to share our “equal responsibility” for ensuring access to justice.

As law firm associates, we can take on this responsibility in many different forms. Some associates will handle a case and stand up in court against counsel for the client’s landlord. Others will help prepare and file paperwork required to restore a client’s Medicaid benefits. Still others will help by providing financial support.

Supporting the Campaign is one way I take on some of this responsibility, and I’m so excited that so many law firm associates across the District have made the choice to help in this way too. By educating our colleagues about the people Legal Aid serves and about the importance of the Campaign in making these services possible, by creating fun or competitive opportunities for lawyers in our firms to participate, and by sharing our ideas and successes with other coordinators, we’re not just raising money; we’re making access to justice a reality for DC’s most vulnerable residents.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who are part of this important effort!

BJ Shannon
Alston & Bird LLP

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