Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

3L Helps the Homeless in DC

If you’re worried about what will become of the law profession, 3L Gabriela Sevilla is Exhibit A that the future is in good hands.

The third-year law student at Howard University was moved to action after meeting a homeless couple living in a tent on the streets of Washington DC. She launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for them to get an apartment.

“This could happen to anyone,” Sevilla wrote on the GoFundMe account, as reported by The Washington Post. “Many of us are one bad day or one missed paycheck away from homelessness.”

She set a modest goal of $2,500, which was exceeded in a matter of days. Eventually, she raised more than $41,000, enough for the couple to find housing and start a new life.

3L, Intern, Advocate

Sevilla is a legal intern at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She found herself drawn to the couple because she could identify with the woman’s background, according to this article in the ABA Journal.

“Here was a woman just like her,” reported the Washington Post. “A Latina raised by immigrants, who’d never had much in her life. Sevilla knew what it was like to get evicted and to feel untethered from family. In an alternative reality, Sevilla realized, their roles could easily have been swapped, with her in the tent.”

But the 3L’s advocacy went beyond just raising money. She helped the woman prepare a resume and look for work. She took her shopping for clothes suitable for an interview. She helped her get a phone so she could be contacted if a job materialized.

Sevilla at first thought people would judge the couple and not be supportive. But she said the outpouring of support filled her with optimism.

Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 Pro Bono Service

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono public legal services per year.

In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

(a) provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:

(1) persons of limited means;

(2) charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; or

(3) individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate

(b) provide any additional services through:

(1) the delivery of legal services described in paragraph (a) at a substantially reduced fee; or

(2) participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.


In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.


[Comment 1] Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional work load, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer. The North Carolina State Bar urges all lawyers to provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono services annually.


[Comment 4] Because service must be provided without fee or expectation of fee, the intent of the lawyer to render free legal services is essential for the work performed to fall within the meaning of paragraph (a). Accordingly, services rendered cannot be considered pro bono if an anticipated fee is uncollected, but the award of statutory attorneys' fees in a case originally accepted as pro bono would not disqualify such services from inclusion under this section.




About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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