The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia announced that it has received an extraordinary, multi-year donation from the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP which will enable it to establish a new site located at Friendship Baptist Church. The firm has committed $125,000 per year for a minimum of five years, in addition to attorney and legal assistant staffing to this exciting partnership, which will allow Legal Aid to expand its presence into Southwest DC, reaching low-income residents who may not otherwise have access to legal services.
The project was born from a vision of Reverend J. Michael Little, Senior Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church. In 2008, Reverend Little, himself a law school graduate, approached Kirkland & Ellis with the idea of bringing free legal services to the Southwest quadrant of the city, which previously had none. Reverend Little recognized a need for access to justice in the Southwest community, and his idea was that a “circle of friends” might be formed between the church and the private legal community. Reverend Little along with Kirkland & Ellis founded a non-profit organization called “Jeremiah’s Circle of Friends,” and began operating the “home grown” legal clinic out of the church. For three years, the clinic was funded by the Kirkland Foundation, and Kirkland attorneys and legal assistants volunteered thousands of hours assisting hundreds of underserved individuals through the clinic.
“The JCF clinic was a resounding success,” says Kirkland partner and JCF founder Jennifer Levy. “We became so convinced of the need in this community, that in late 2012 we approached Legal Aid with the idea of bringing their 80 years of knowledge and experience together with our grassroots project, and this terrific project was born.”
The office opened its doors under the new name Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia SW at Friendship Baptist Church (900 Delaware Ave, SW) at 9.30 a.m. on Emancipation Day, April 16, 2013. The site will maintain walk-in intake hours from 9:30am to 12:30 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. In addition to providing financial support to Legal Aid, Kirkland attorneys and legal assistants will continue to staff the site under Legal Aid’s management, and continue to provide advice and representation to clients needing legal assistance.
Eric Angel, Executive Director of DC Legal Aid, notes that “Kirkland’s multi-year commitment to Legal Aid and this project are unprecedented in our more than 80 year history,” adding that, “This new project will enable us to make justice real for hundreds upon hundreds of additional DC residents. We are delighted to have the opportunity to expand our presence into a new quadrant of the District.”
“Looking forward,” Reverend Little affirms. “I remain committed to my belief that there are two things no one should ever be deprived of: equal opportunities for self-fulfillment, and access to justice.” He adds, “Friendship has always sought to give voice to the needy, and lend a hand of support in the struggle for justice. I’m grateful to God for Kirkland’s and Legal Aid’s huge commitment to this dream.”