Setting the Gold Standard for 50 Years

Enhancing access to justice. Improving the legal system. Empowering lawyers to achieve.

Since 1972, the D.C. Bar as been setting the gold standard for legal excellence. Explore our history and get involved to help us continue to raise the bar for the next 50 years.

D.C. Bar 2022 Conference

Join us on June 23, 2022, for the Bar’s largest conference and celebration of the year.
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1972 – 2022

Explore Our History

Scroll to the right to explore the full history of the D.C. Bar.

1801

Congress establishes the District of Columbia’s first judicial systems, which take on various forms under federal authority for the next 170 years.

1871

The Bar Association of the District of Columbia is founded as a voluntary bar to support lawyers practicing in D.C. courts. Membership is restricted to white men, so minority lawyers form the Washington Bar Association and female lawyers found the Women’s Bar Association.

1972

The D.C. Court of Appeals, which had been created by act of Congress in 1970 (along with the D.C. Superior Court), creates the D.C. Bar, vesting it authority to regulate all attorney practice under a single disciplinary code.
The D.C. Bar is formed at a time when young lawyers and law students were calling more attention to the need for pro bono and public interest work.
E. Barrett Prettyman Jr. is elected as the first president of the D.C. Bar.
“My board was an eclectic one, with strong-willed personalities of various and diverse viewpoints, not shy at expressing themselves on any subject. In fact, my biggest task during this first year was to bring a sense of calm and reason to our meetings. I found that if Board members thought I was fair, and they had every chance to propound their views, we could all work together as a unit.” — E. Barrett Prettyman Jr.
The D.C. Bar creates a Clients’ Security Trust Fund to reimburse clients for losses caused by the dishonest conduct of D.C. Bar members.

1973

Prominent civil rights attorney Charles T. Duncan becomes the first African American president of the D.C. Bar.
The D.C. Bar publishes the first edition of its official newspaper, <em>Bar Report</em>.
The D.C. Bar forms 16 “divisions” ranging from Administrative Law and Agency Practice to Taxation, the precursor of the current D.C. Bar Communities.
Today there are 21 D.C. Bar Communities providing rich programming and content, volunteer opportunities, and member engagement initiatives.

1974

President Nixon signs the law creating the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The LSC is now the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation.
D.C. citizens elect their first government in more than 100 years.

1975

The D.C. Bar creates a continuing legal education program on a self-supporting basis.
Today the D.C. Bar’s award-winning Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Program offers 130+ programs to more than 7,000 attorneys each year.

1976

The D.C. Bar begins publication of its magazine, <em>District Lawyer</em>. It is renamed <em>Washington Lawyer</em> in 1986.
The D.C. Bar establishes the Office of Public Service Activities.

1977

The D.C. Bar expands its Board of Governors to include nonlawyers as nonvoting members.
The D.C. Bar Foundation was established with the express purpose of working “hand-in-hand with the civil legal aid community to better understand and address the legal issues facing District residents, identify unmet civil legal needs, and make strategic investments to strengthen and expand legal services for disadvantaged District residents.”

1978

The D.C. Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service, forerunner of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, is established.
Since its founding, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center has become the largest provider of pro bono legal services in the District. Each year, the Center recruits, trains, and mobilizes attorney volunteers to serve more than 20,000 D.C. residents living in poverty, small businesses, and community-based nonprofits.

1981

The D.C. Bar Board of Governors establishes the Special Committee on Alcohol Abuse, tasked to develop and implement a program to assist lawyers struggling with alcohol use disorders.
Today the Lawyer’s Assistance Program not-only serves D.C. Bar members, judges and law students on a free and confidential basis, but has expanded its counseling services to substance abuse and mental health issues.
Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Democrats were not exactly sanguine about a Reagan appointee; nevertheless, there was a lot of cheering among women lawyers when Justice O’Connor was nominated. She brought a perspective that was previously missing on the court.” – Jamie S. Gorelick D.C. Bar President, 1992-93
The D.C. Court of Appeals approves a $75 dues ceiling and rules to restrict use of fees to basic Bar functions such as discipline, admissions, and continued registration. Throughout the decade, Bar members and leadership ask and review questions relating to how much lawyers should pay in fees and where the money should go. The debate mirrors national debate regarding whether tax dollars should go to legal aid services.

1984

The D.C. Bar elects well-known attorney Marna S. Tucker as its first female president. In the succeeding years, 12 more women are elected to the Bar’s highest office.
“My being president let women know that that they could join leadership, that there was a place for them in leadership.” – Marna S. Tucker

1985

The D.C. Bar establishes the Lawyer Counseling Program (now the Lawyer Assistance Program) to support members of the D.C. Bar, judges, and law students.
Today the Lawyer Assistance Program continues to help lawyers, judges and law students access confidential mental health, addiction and well-being resources when they need them.

1986

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless is founded through the support of the D.C. Bar and D.C. Bar Foundation.

1988

The D.C. Bar Office of Public Service Activities incorporates as the D.C. Bar Public Service Activities Corporation (PSAC,) a forerunner of the Pro Bono Program (now Pro Bono Center). PSAC was a nonprofit service established by the Bar following a 1980 referendum restricting the use of mandatory dues.

1990

The D.C. Bar elects to bring its Continuing Legal Education Program in house, with the George Washington University Law School (then called the George Washington University National Law Center) providing assistance. The program secures MCLE accreditation the same year.
The D.C. Bar establishes the Rosenberg Award for Excellence in Government Service in honor of Beatrice “Bea” Rosenberg, who dedicated 35 years of her career to government service and performed with distinction at the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

1991

The District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct, a new code of ethics for D.C. Bar members, go into effect.

1993

The D.C. Bar establishes the William J. Brennan Jr. Award and the Thurgood Marshall Award for exceptional achievement in the pursuit of equal justice and opportunity.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center launches its Law Firm Clinic (now the Advocacy & Justice Clinic), recruiting and training attorney volunteers to represent prescreened low-income clients in housing, family, public benefits, disability, consumer, and unemployment law matters. Eighteen firms volunteer for the Law Firm Clinic in the first year.

1994

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center opens its Bankruptcy Clinic.
The D.C. Court of Appeals adopts rules requiring all attorneys admitted to the D.C. Bar after July 1, 1994, to complete the Mandatory Course on the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct and District of Columbia Practice.

1995

Upon recommendation by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors, the D.C. Court of Appeals adopts changes making the attorney discipline system more public.
The D.C. Bar establishes the Lawyer Practice Assistance Program (now Practice Management Advisory Service).
Today the Practice Management Advisory Service (PMAS) continues to provide free and confidential practice management information and resources to Bar members.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center holds its first Pro Bono Initiative Breakfast; 54 local firms pledge to increase their pro bono efforts in the city.

1996

The D.C. Court of Appeals adopts a comprehensive set of changes to the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct.
The D.C. Bar launches its website, dcbar.org.

1997

The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Advice and Referral Clinic opens at Bread for the City in the Shaw neighborhood.

1998

The D.C. Bar establishes a committee to study the D.C. Bar Foundation to find out how the nonprofit can benefit the community even more. Since then the D.C. Bar Foundation has become the leading funder of civic legal aid in the District of Columbia.

2005

The D.C. Access to Justice Commission is founded to provide leadership and cohesion for the District’s legal services community.
“That was a very important institutional change as it brought together not only the resources of the Bar but the resources of the court and the resources of the community to essentially have a practical impact on obtaining lawyers and legal representation for many of the D.C. residents who just had no chance of getting legal representation.” — Jack C. Keeney Jr. D.C. Bar President, 2004-2005
John C. Cruden, Bar president from 2005 to 2006, works to bring more government lawyers into the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. Today federal government lawyers are the single largest source of staff for some of the Pro Bono Center’s signature programs.
“I wrote a letter to every single counsel of every single agency in government saying I was a government lawyer and already doing pro bono and so should they.” — John C. Cruden
The Bar establishes the Hurricane Katrina Pro Bono Legal Relief Project to help evacuees who are taken in by the city of Washington.

2007

Melvin White becomes the first openly gay D.C. Bar president.
“What I tried to do was bring attention to the breadth and depth of the legal talent that we have in our community, regardless of identity group.” — Melvin White

2013

The D.C. Bar launches the John Payton Leadership Academy, an intensive training program that helps lawyers develop and sharpen essential leadership skills.

2015

The D.C. Bar Board of Governors signs an agreement to purchase land at 901 4th Street NW in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood to build the Bar’s new headquarters.
The Board of Governors approves D.C. Bar 2020, a set of strategic priorities and objectives that will serve as the foundation for the Bar’s vision over the next five years.

2016

The D.C. Bar breaks ground at its new location. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of the judiciary join Bar leaders in celebrating the milestone.

2017

The D.C. Bar undergoes leadership changes and appoints Robert J. Spagnoletti as its new CEO.

2018

The D.C. Bar opens the doors to its state-of-the-art headquarters on February 12, 2018. Spagnoletti, in comments at the time, highlights the facility’s technological capacity, which would prove to be a vital asset in the coming years.
“You can be virtually connected to what the Bar is doing. Participate in a program from Seoul! As a member of the Taxation Community, or the International Law Community, [or] the IP Community, you can virtually participate in a program wherever you are.” — Robert J. Spagnoletti

2020

For the first time in its history, the D.C. Bar transitions to fully remote operations at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bar’s capacity for virtual connection facilitates the continuing delivery of services to members.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, the DC Affordable Law Firm, and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia launch the Family Law Assistance Network, providing free and confidential legal services to those with emergency family law matters.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center partners with Legal Aid, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program, Rising for Justice, Bread for the City, and the Legal Counsel for the Elderly to launch the Landlord Tenant Legal Assistance Network, providing guidance on landlord–tenant matters through its hotline and referral services.
Because of pandemic-related health concerns, the D.C. Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions administers a remote bar exam in October.

2021

The D.C. Bar holds its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit in which speakers discuss diversity and inclusion issues within the legal profession, implicit bias, interrupting racism, and related topics.
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center joins a coalition of District legal services providers, law firms, and law schools led by the D.C. Access to Justice Commission to launch D.C. Represents, a campaign to mobilize pro bono legal help for District residents hardest hit by the pandemic.

Member Moments

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Fostering Integrity

Read the latest issue of Washington Lawyer magazine, exploring issues around legal ethics, practice management, and career development.
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Programs & Events

Throughout the year, we are hosting special programs and events to help our members come together to celebrate, network, learn, and deepen their engagement with the Bar. Join us!

Jan 31, 2022
Unsolved Mysteries: Ten Perplexing Legal Ethics Controversies of the Last 50 Years
Jan 31, 2022
Unsolved Mysteries: Ten Perplexing Legal Ethics Controversies of the Last 50 Years

In 1972, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, later to be adopted in some form by all U.S jurisdictions, was barely a twinkle in the ABA’s eye. Fifty years later, the old Code is gone and forgotten, but the legal ethical dilemmas it had failed to solve have either persisted or been replaced with new ones. For as the profession develops and evolves, so do legal ethics quandaries, and the ones that linger are important, and even perilous. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the D.C. Bar, this new and thought-provoking class will challenge those who attend with the most controversial and intriguing legal ethics developments over this period. This interactive program has been conceived and will be conducted by Jack Marshall, Esq, president of ProEthics Ltd., who has presented CLE ethics programs for the D.C. Bar for more than 20 years.

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TBD
2022 Tax Legislative and Regulatory Update Conference
TBD
2022 Tax Legislative and Regulatory Update Conference

Join the D.C. Bar Taxation Community for two days of panel discussions focusing on legislative and regulatory updates on corporate, partnership and individual taxation, tax-exempt tax reform, international tax including the latest OECD developments, tax planning, compensation and benefits reform, health and welfare tax, employment tax, bankruptcy taxation, taxation of financial products, employment tax, tax controversy and more. If enacted, the Build Back Better Act’s tax-related provisions will be a particular focus of this year’s conference.

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June 23, 2022
2022 Conference
June 23, 2022
2022 Conference

Join the D.C. Bar for our signature event of the year, bringing together our local, national, and international members with leaders of our profession to focus on important developments in the law. This momentous event includes educational sessions, networking opportunities, and impressive keynote speakers.

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June 23, 2022
Celebration of Leadership
June 23, 2022
Celebration of Leadership

The annual D.C. Bar Celebration of Leadership honors the extraordinary achievements of D.C. Bar members and officially welcomes the newly elected D.C. Bar officers, members of the Board of Governors, and American Bar Association delegates.

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June 23, 2022
The Presidents Reception
June 23, 2022
The Presidents Reception

Since 1993, past presidents of the D.C. Bar have hosted the Presidents Reception to honor the incoming president of the Bar and to support the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, the largest provider of pro bono legal help in the District of Columbia. With the support of our generous donors and dedicated attorney volunteers, we operate award-winning legal clinics, projects, and resource centers that serve more than 20,000 individuals, nonprofits, and small businesses each year.

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July 14, 2022
Practice 360 Conference
July 14, 2022
Practice 360 Conference

Practice 360º is a free all-day virtual conference from the D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service featuring 20 practical seminars taught by industry experts to help you revolutionize how you manage your firm. Join fellow attorneys from big and small firms and organizations on July 14, 2022 to stay current with the business side of the law, and hear from leaders in law firm management, wellness, technology, and marketing.

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The Next 50 Years

What will the D.C. Bar look like in 2072? That’s up to you. Get involved and help shape the future of the D.C. legal community.

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