June 2012 Bar Bulletin
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June 2012 Bar Bulletin

Pro Bono Award:

Davis Wright Tremaine

By Threesa Milligan


When asked about Davis Wright Tremaine's commitment to pro bono services, attorneys and staff at the firm are likely to answer with a story about founding partner, John Davis, who said, "A life is worth living when it is dedicated to the service of others." This message has permeated the culture of DWT and helps shape its approach to the practice of law.

Partner in Charge Bob Blackstone points out that at DWT it is not just about the money. The firm recognizes the importance of balance in the lives of lawyers, and giving back to the community is an essential component of maintaining a healthy balance. The firm's policies support staff and attorney participation in pro bono work (defined as legal services provided at no cost, as distinct from public service, which involves non-legal service).

DWT is a long-standing signatory to the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Challenge and gives billable credit for qualifying pro bono work. The firm's professional development policies allow credit for skills learned through pro bono work, recognizing that pro bono opportunities can be important in helping develop legal skills that serve lawyers when working with their paying clients. Blackstone notes that in doing pro bono work, lawyers and staff come to understand its importance.

Julie Orr, pro bono manager at DWT since 2000, appreciates the large number of programs KCBA's Pro Bono Services manages. The opportunities for lawyers to get involved are varied and she can usually find something within KCBA's programs that fits with lawyer and staff interests for service.

DWT attorneys work at the Homeless Legal Clinic, a program that the firm helped found in 1990, volunteer at the Housing Justice Project representing clients facing eviction, volunteer at a number of the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, and take cases through the Volunteer Legal Services program.

Pete Johnson, a partner at the firm and a volunteer at the Homeless Legal Clinic, says, "One of our core values at DWT is a commitment to public service and the betterment of the communities in which we live and work. Attorneys and staff at the firm have a great deal of latitude to support the causes that they are most passionate about, but a common goal is to serve those in our communities who are the most vulnerable.

"DWT strives to provide under-served individuals with access to justice. With that aim, DWT has for many years worked closely with the Downtown Emergency Services Center to perform legal intakes and provide pro bono advising to people who utilize the shelter. In many cases, some quick guidance is enough to put a person on the right path and to empower them to resolve the issue. In others, DWT takes on a client's full matter through resolution. Those of us who do the legal intakes are gratified and humbled to see the effects of even a small donation of time to the lives of those individuals who are served."

KCBA is proud to acknowledge Davis Wright Tremaine's generous provision of legal services to those who truly have nowhere else to turn.

Threesa Milligan is the director of KCBA Pro Bono Services.


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