June 2015 Bar Bulletin
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June 2015 Bar Bulletin

Why I Volunteer with the Housing Justice Project

By Dan Davies


Like many people, I became a lawyer because I wanted to help people. Advising clients is the core of a lawyer's job, and I strive to help all my clients pro bono or not.

However, I find representing clients pro bono to be the most fulfilling. People who cannot pay for legal services face a complex legal world alone unless someone steps in and provides pro bono assistance. Representing these individuals through KCBA's Pro Bono Services Program gives me the fulfilling experience I originally hoped for when I chose to become a lawyer.

Pro Bono Services offers a variety of programs that provide help to low-income individuals who would not otherwise receive legal assistance. These include the Neighborhood Legal Clinics, Kinship Care Solutions Project, Family Law Mentor Program and Housing Justice Project. All of these programs offer attorneys the opportunity to positively affect the lives of King County residents.

I volunteer with the Housing Justice Project because housing is an issue I care strongly about and I can make a significant difference in a short amount of time. HJP provides limited representation to low-income tenants facing eviction. Volunteers attend the clinic once or twice a month at the Superior Court in either Seattle or Kent.

The work involves interviewing the clients to learn about their problems, digesting all of the information available, determining potential solutions and trying to resolve the client's problems all in one morning. The work is intense, with eviction hearings often taking place the same day I first meet the client. However, it is also convenient to schedule because I represent clients only during the time period I am at the clinic.

Volunteering with HJP has provided many benefits aside from the general feel-good experience. HJP holds a full-day CLE annually and it also conducts monthly brown-bag lunch CLEs, which are free to attend for volunteers. These CLEs provide volunteers with a solid foundation in landlord-tenant law.

Beyond the CLEs, the on-the-job training I receive volunteering at HJP is great. HJP gave me face-to-face time with clients, which was not often available when I was a junior associate at my law firm. HJP also offered me the best opportunity to obtain negotiation and courtroom experience.

Even now, with more than five years' experience under my belt, I engage in settlement talks and courtroom hearings more frequently through HJP than in my non-pro bono cases. Virtually every time I volunteer with HJP I engage in settlement negotiations with the opposing party. And when settlement is not possible, I argue my client's case at the unlawful detainer hearing.

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