Frequently Asked Questions
1. What types of cases do DCVLP volunteer attorneys handle?
DCVLP volunteers handle family law and guardian custody cases. Volunteers help survivors of domestic violence achieve safety and independence by representing them in civil protection order, custody, divorce, child support, and immigration cases. Our volunteer lawyers also serve as guardians ad litem, advocating for the best interests of at-risk children in high-conflict custody cases.
2. Can I still handle pro bono cases if my DC Bar membership is on “Inactive” status, or I am a member of another state’s bar?
Yes, attorneys who are inactive DC Bar members or members of another state’s bar can still volunteer with DCVLP!
Under DC Court of Appeals Rule 49(c)(9)(A), attorneys affiliated with a non-profit organization, and supervised by an enrolled, active DC Bar member, may provide pro bono legal services if they fall within one of the following two groups:
- Inactive or retired member of the D.C. Bar in good standing
- Active, inactive, or retired member of the bar of another state or territory in good standing.
You are not eligible to volunteer if you have been disbarred, suspended, or faced any other disciplinary action in any jurisdiction.
3. Can I volunteer if I have not attended law school or am currently a law student?
DCVLP’s attorney volunteer program is only open to US bar-admitted attorneys. If you have passed the bar but have not been sworn in yet, you may volunteer with us through DC Court of Appeals Rule 49(c)(9)(C).
4. Can I volunteer for cases if I don’t have experience in the area of family law or litigation?
DCVLP and our legal services organization partners provide training and mentoring in the relevant areas of law. We pair each attorney with co-counsel on every case to provide support and back-up. We also host optional supplemental trainings, including an annual trial skills refresher course, as well as ‘Lunch & Learn’ meetings on topics of interest to the practice of pro bono family law, such as evidence, practice tips and online legal resources.
5. What is it like handling DCVLP pro bono cases?
We have found our cases to be compelling and often affecting. Volunteers have also noted that they present an opportunity to learn and cultivate important relationships with others, including clients and fellow volunteers. Working on issues such as custody, adoption or domestic violence – where we can help our clients in immediate, tangible ways – is truly a unique opportunity.
6. What is the time commitment?
As little or as much as you decide, depending on the type of case you handle. For instance, representing a domestic violence survivor in an action to obtain a civil protection order against an abuser can take as little as two weeks. In contrast, custody and guardian ad litem cases extend over a longer period of time, but often include weeks in which there is no activity.
7. What are the benefits of taking cases through DCVLP?
Handling DCVLP pro bono cases is an opportunity to use your law degree to help the community, while working with a group of similarly-situated lawyers who provide support and collegiality. For those who may wish to reenter the job market in the future or further their careers, handling pro bono cases provides an opportunity to hone your legal and professional skills while giving back to those in need.
8. What kind of support does DCVLP offer volunteers?
For more about the resources DCVLP provides to all volunteers, please click here.