The Washington Lawyers’ Committee has an exciting pro bono and volunteer opportunity in our Workers’ Rights Clinics for attorneys, non-attorneys, new associates, experienced practitioners, or persons looking for time limited or long-term commitment. Each week, we conduct clinics for low-waged workers. At the clinics we provide advice, brief serves, and screen cases for referrals or systemic litigation. No prior experience is necessary. We provide training and Committee staff supervise and provide support to each clinic session.
Please consider volunteering with us and sharing with your network!
If you are interested, please contact Sarah Bessell (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Committee attorney who manages the Workers’ Rights Clinic.
The clinics are an important part of our racial justice advocacy. There is a large and growing racial income disparity in the region. In DC, the average white family make four times the income as the average Black family. Twenty-two percent of Black families live below the federal poverty line despite than many have full-time workers in the home. Moreover, wage theft, race and gender discrimination, and discrimination against persons with a record of a conviction deprive families of color of income and lock in the disparities of income and wealth. Prior to the pandemic, one-in-four low wage workers experienced wage theft each year. The pandemic has made these inequities and injustices worse.
On a weekly basis we see a real and tangible impact. Workers report to us that a demand letter we drafted caused the employer to pay hundreds of dollars in stolen wages. In other cases, we have provided assistance for a worker to file an administrative complaint challenging discriminatory conduct or helped a worker navigate a case they are pursuing pro se. In other cases, we are giving worker the information necessary for them to solve their problem now, but also in the future. We monitor the intake for broader trends and look for cases that address a systemic issue that we will take on for more extended representation.
The clinics are held every Wednesday evening and every other Friday. Many people, once trained, volunteer for a clinic periodically, but others come every week with some volunteers having participated in more than 500 clinic sessions. Thus, if you are someone who wants to help a few hours a month or hundreds of hours a year, we can accommodate you!
While we have a steady corps of volunteers, it is not enough. The demand during the pandemic increased significantly and we now have a weeks-long backlog of people who have requested an interview. It would make a big difference to have a fresh group of people to staff the clinics.
They volunteer opportunities fall into the following categories:
Intake volunteers meet with workers, conduct interviews, gather and review documentary evidence, and engage in issue spotting. Under the guidance of experienced employment law attorneys and Committee staff, they communicate advice, help draft demand letters, and other documents to assist workers in pursuing wage and hour, discrimination, workers’ compensation, and other claims. Volunteers describe their experience as follows:
“Serving as an intake volunteer for the Workers’ Rights Clinic has been tremendously fulfilling and has granted me new perspectives. As an aspiring law student, my experience with the Workers’ Rights Clinic has made me feel more prepared for a legal career and better equipped to serve the public good.”
“I enjoy working in the Worker’s Rights Clinic, as I am a law school student. While working for the Clinic, I conduct fact investigations, work with attorneys, and on occasion, draft legal documents. The experience greatly adds to my confidence in building rapport with clients.”
Advising Attorney Volunteer
Advising attorneys work with intake volunteers to provide workers with high-quality legal advice on a range of employment issues. Advising attorneys must have a minimum of three years of experience in employment law. All advice provided by advising attorneys is reviewed and approved by a Washington Lawyers’ Committee attorney. Advising attorneys tend to become dedicated, some serving in that capacity for years. They report:
“The clinic has enabled me to continue helping people with employment related problems, a mission that has been my lifelong passion.”
“Little did I know that my first clinic all those years ago opened the door to a new chapter in my legal life. I have finally been able to do some good, help real people, and be proud of being a lawyer.”
Please consider volunteering with us and sharing with your network! If you are interested, please contact Sarah Bessell (email@example.com), the Committee attorney who manages the Workers’ Rights Clinic.