Through my day job, I came across a local advocacy group, the DC Volunteer Lawyer Project (DCVLP for short). I invited DCVLP founders to come and speak to law students in the externship seminar I teach about pro bono and advocacy work. During their talk, I found that I was mesmerized by stories of DCVLP lawyers securing protection orders for their clients that literally helped to save lives. The work DCVLP was doing was incredible and I wanted to be a part of it.
I immediately signed up as a volunteer and discovered that DCVLP attorneys work in teams of two in the family law cases they take on. I knew pretty much…nothing about family law. I never took any family law courses in law school and so I had no idea where to begin. Luckily, DCVLP has great training manuels and I was also paired up with an attorney who has done quite a few DCVLP cases, so I was in good hands.
I signed up to represent a client in a Civil Protection Order hearing. Essentially, my client was a young woman with three young children who had been living with her boyfriend up in Pennsylvania. The relationship became increasingly abusive, as her boyfriend began both verbally and physically abusing her, while at the same time cutting off her access to the outside world. Eventually, she took the kids and left. Our task was in securing a Civil Protection Order that would require her ex-boyfriend to stay away from her and the children.
The case ended up being more complicated than we initially anticipated, but in the end we were able to secure the CPO. My first pro bono project was a success and more importanly, my client would not have to look over her shoulder. Of course, a CPO doesn’t guarantee anyone’s safety, but the research shows that an overwhelming number (approximately 96%) of CPOs are actually followed.
It felt so gratifying to use my legal degree in a way that directly impacted someone’s life. I’m eagerly awaiting my next case with DCVLP and the next item I can cross off of THE List.