Huffpost Impact

The Real Housewives Of D.C.: Pro Bono Lawyers Who Fight For Women And Children

Posted: Updated:

Tired of seeing those annoying housewives on TV? Meet some real ones: the D.C. Volunteer Lawyers Project, a group of self-described "mommy lawyers" and housewives who are using their law degrees to defend low-income women and children in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 2008, the DCVLP has 241 volunteer lawyers-- mostly stay-at-home moms, housewives, and unemployed graduates-- who handle pro bono cases in the areas of domestic violence, child custody, and foster care. Among the group there are 45 open cases at any given time, but this figure could easily double if the group had more funding to cover the additional operational and administrative costs, DCVLP president Jenny Brody told HuffPost.

The idea began with Brody, a Harvard Law School graduate, who left a high-flying corporate law career 15 years ago to raise three children. By 2007, her children were in school and Brody found herself with the time and means to re-enter her legal practice as a pro bono lawyer.

Around the same time, she met two other mothers with similar goals, Karen Backer Marcou and Marla Spindel. The three women decided to put thought to action: they split the numerous start-up costs associated with running a pro bono practice such as malpractice insurance, a Lexis Nexis account, a virtual office address, filing fees, etc.

Surprisingly, none of the founders had ever worked in family law before. But Brody credits being a mother and meeting other strong, intelligent women for fueling her current passion for serving women and children.

"All but one of us had done family law before, most of us were corporate lawyers, but since becoming mothers we can all relate to the need to keep women and children safe," she says. "Our volunteers feel a strong sense of commitment to all of our clients. We're all from middle class families who can afford not to work, and it is incredibly rewarding being able to help these women in need."

Despite an illustrious legal career-- like clerking for Hon. Irving L. Goldberg, litigating for the the Department of Justice, and working at a private law firm-- Brody says this is the closest she's ever come to doing what she's always wanted to do with her law degree. "Most lawyers are fairly idealistic when they go to law school," Brody said, "but we lose sight of our ideals.... Doing this work reminds of us of why we went to law school in the first place."

Click here to learn more about the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project. The DCVLP accepts non-members of the DC Bar and provides regular training in family law.

Around the Web

Forced Pro Bono: But is it Legal?

Memphis attorneys offer free legal advice Oct. 9

Why pro bono marketing is on the rise

Not so pro-Bono

Ballard Spahr's Daniel McKenna Honored as an 'Unsung Hero'