NVRDC Pro Bono Portal
HAVE YOU ALREADY BEEN TRAINED BY NVRDC AND ARE READY TO TAKE ON A PRO BONO CASE?
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Join NVRDC's Pro Bono Program
Are you a DC licensed attorney? Join NVRDC's pro bono program
If you are a licensed attorney who wants to have a positive impact on a survivor of crime's experience in a judicial system, NVRDC may/can give you the chance to volunteer your time in a supported and secure environment. NVRDC's Pro Bono Program offers opportunities for attorneys to represent survivors of crime in DC in three contexts: Crime Victims' Rights, Civil Protection Order cases, and during a University-based on-campus judicial process administered until Title IX.
Because NVRDC co-counsels every case with our pro bono attorneys, volunteer attorneys determine their level of involvement with the case: whether you want to first-chair a CPO trial or do a single, discrete research project for a CVR issue in a case. As part of this co-counsel model, all attorneys can be confident they will never be left to figure out an arising issue on their own.
Our pro bono trainings for volunteer attorneys who are interested in taking cases are offered on a periodic basis at local law firms that generously host us. In the past, our trainings have been held at firms like Arnold & Porter, Steptoe & Johnson, and Sidley Austin, among others.
If you are interested in being contacted about the next training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on nvrdc's pro bono program
NVRDC aims to change the impact of victimization by providing holistic, comprehensive services to all crime victims in DC. This includes civil and crime victims' rights legal services, advocacy, and case management. However, as we aim to serve all of our clients with excellence and integrity, our limited resources often force us to choose between two evils - turning away survivors seeking our help or risking jeopardizing the consistent quality of our services.
With DC heading toward the highest number of homicides in one year since 2008, our services are in high demand now more than ever. Need for NVRDC’s services for families of homicide victims continues to grow. We have also seen our highest rates of survivors seeking our advocacy services through the Sexual Assault Crisis Response Program over the past few months, with 51 cases needing crisis response to the hospital in August 2015 alone. This program also saw a 12% increase in survivors seeking assistance from 2014 to 2015.
A significant amount of these survivors seek legal assistance, consisting of anything from brief advice through our Walk-in Legal Clinic to full representation in one, two, or three of the case types discussed below. Without pro bono help, we would be unable to meet the need for our services.
Our pro bono opportunities come in three forms: Civil Protection Orders, Crime Victims' Rights, and Title IX/Clery Act Campus-based Representation. For these cases, pro bono attorneys are paired with staff attorneys in our organization to co-counsel a case so that individual pro bono attorneys can decide how large of a role they feel comfortable playing in a case. The attorney may choose to first-chair a CPO hearing, conduct crime victims' rights research behind the scenes, or anything in between.
For Civil Protection Order (CPO) cases, attorneys get experience litigating in a concentrated form; the majority of CPO cases are completed within two weeks and almost all of them are done within a month. Since each CPO case requires us to prepare for a full hearing, our typical pro bono attorney uses a CPO case as an opportunity to get experience drafting and conducting a direct examination and opening statement. With our experienced attorneys there to assist, give feedback, and co-chair, CPO cases are a good way for young associates to gain experience litigating in court without feeling the pressure of taking on a case alone. The bulk of most CPO cases are focused on preparing for and being in court. CPO cases can also, if the pro bono attorney wants, involve a significant amount of client interaction.
"I am so lucky that I decided to go to the police before pursuing a CPO, because they put me in touch with NVRDC and made everything that followed possible. I am certain that I would not have been able to receive the CPO were it not for NVRDC, and even with their exceptional support and attention, the process took ten weeks, during which I sat in court every other week and stayed in a friend’s mother’s basement to avoid being at the location where my abuser knew the address...Today, it has been almost nine months since I finally received a CPO. For this, I owe NVRDC the deepest of gratitudes; their defense of my physical safety in the CPO hearing made it possible for my life to continue beyond and in spite of a trauma that would, without NVRDC, have been permanently devastating. I hope you will support them much like I hope to do in the future, and recognize their critical role in improving our community not just by helping us survive the difficult times, but by making it possible for us to succeed after the trauma is passed.”
— NVRDC Client following Civil Protection Order representation
Meanwhile, the Crime Victims' Rights (CVR) case representation is shaped a little differently. CVR cases involve a smaller amount of time commitment over a longer period, with a greater focus on conducting research and writing motions, rather than appearing in court. Criminal cases (particularly if charged as a felony) last over a year, so the role that pro bono attorneys take can differ significantly between individual attorneys’ schedules. In most CVR cases where we ask for assistance it is for a specific issue, like subpoena defense or the victim's restitution request. These cases tend to be a good fit for busy attorneys who want to include a few hours of pro bono work in their schedule; sometimes staying for the entirety of a case, other times only doing a discrete research project during its pendency. These discrete research projects can also involve technical oral arguments before a judge. Some of the most intense violence, stalking behaviors, or abuse can be seen in these cases or can involve very interesting legal issues for attorneys to help us tackle. These cases can have little-to-no client interaction or the attorney can fully dive in, attending meetings or even court with the client on the days she has to testify, working to protect her crime victims' rights throughout the process.
"Although I identified the NVRDC as a resource at the very end of my three year federal court case, they were one of the most supportive and helpful services I have ever encountered. They automatically jumped into whatever situations I needed help with; it was like they were there the whole time. They truly held my hand throughout all of my hardships.”
— NVRDC Client after receiving Crime Victims’ Rights Representation
Finally, Title IX/Clery Act-based campus representation cases have even more room for new, strange, and interesting issues to come up, because this area can feel a bit like the Wild West. Under Title IX, universities are required to have on-campus procedures for student survivors of intimate partner abuse, stalking, or sexual assault to report any sexual harassment or violence and pursue a disciplinary proceeding.
Under the Clery Act, universities must publish statistics regarding what crimes are being perpetrated against their students—both on and off-campus—as well as accommodate some specific needs of student survivors.
However, universities in DC are constantly changing their policies and the ways they carry out their required investigations, so we have found there is a lot of room for advocacy, and a need for flexibility, in these cases. Pro bono attorneys in the past have played roles anywhere from helping advocate for a student's immediate needs (like class schedule changes) to representing a student throughout an on-campus investigation, hearing/appeals process, submitting complaints with the Department of Justice, and exploring lawsuit options under Title IX.
“I came to NVRDC at one of the lowest points in my life. My university had put my sexual misconduct complaint on the back burner, some of my friends had abandoned me, and my mental health was deteriorating fast. I felt like I was in free fall -- but contacting NVRDC helped me find my footing again. Within days of reaching out, I was matched up with an awesome legal advocate who compelled the school to pay attention to my case. She supported me through every step of the process, consistently and clearly informed me of my options, and gave me as much control over the case as I wanted. The hearing wrapped up more successfully than I could have ever imagined, and I walked away feeling better about myself than I had in years. Thanks to NVRDC's support and respect, I was able to grow from my pain -- and thanks to NVRDC, I'm continuing to do so.”
— NVRDC Client following Title IX/Clery Act-based campus representation