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 has 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.
rEGISTER

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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Global Influence & Innovation

The May/June issue of Washington Lawyer magazine offers a global outlook on technology trends, from developments in the metaverse to space debris and algorithmic bias.
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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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Feb 4, 2022
Let’s Brief It Podcast: Special Discussion with D.C. Bar President
Feb 4, 2022
Let’s Brief It Podcast: Special Discussion with D.C. Bar President

To celebrate the D.C. Bar’s 50th anniversary, Sienna, Elena, and Delali interview current D.C. Bar president Chad Sarchio for this special episode. They discuss a wide range of topics including integrity in the law; the continued need for pro bono; the importance of attorney wellness; and what Shakespeare really meant by “Kill all the lawyers.”

LISTEN
Feb 9, 2022
Remarkable Collaborations: The D.C. Bar & DC Refers
Feb 9, 2022
Remarkable Collaborations: The D.C. Bar & DC Refers

DC Refers was created through a remarkable collaboration between the D.C. Bar and Washington Council of Lawyers to increase access to justice for the modest means population in DC. This conversation between founders Andrea Ferster, Nancy Lopez, and current DC Refers panel lawyers explores the ways we came together to create a new organization that enhances public service to this underserved population. Hear their story and learn more about DC Refers.

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March 31, 2022
Access to Justice: Opening the Door to All
March 31, 2022
Access to Justice: Opening the Door to All

This new and timely class will examine certain of the myriad issues litigants have faced accessing the legal system and obtaining the relief to which they are entitled. Racial, ethnic, gender, and economic bias and prejudice have permeated our legal system throughout the years, including today. Our panel of experienced attorneys and experts will discuss the issues those who have traditionally been denied access to justice face; the progress the system has made during the past 50 years, including the right to counsel in some civil matters; and what we need to ensure all get access to justice.

April 6, 2022
A Look at the DEIA Work of the D.C. Bar Communities
April 6, 2022
A Look at the DEIA Work of the D.C. Bar Communities

Senior Program Attorney Andrea Rodricks along with Communities Committee members Charles Lowery and Steven Miller discuss the work of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Initiative. Their conversation includes information about the development of Lawyers’ Toolkit for Diversity & Inclusion and the Organizational Health Indicators for Diversity recommendations, as well as a brief overview of the efforts of the Initiative’s Project Groups. This podcast is brought to you in part by our sponsors, ChatAgents and the American Heart Association’s Lawyers Have Heart 10K, 5K and Fun Walk.

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May 4-5, 2022
2022 Tax Legislative and Regulatory Update Conference
May 4-5, 2022
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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May 4, 2022
D.C. Bar Announces 2022 Annual Award Winners
May 4, 2022
D.C. Bar Announces 2022 Annual Award Winners

The District of Columbia Bar congratulates the winners of its 2022 Annual Awards, honoring individuals and organizations whose work helped ensure the advancement of the profession and enrichment of the legal community. The awardees’ contributions include the promotion of important social justice issues, the provision of volunteer services that expand access to justice, and the development of projects and initiatives that support these goals.

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May 10, 2022
Tax Conference Explores Plans for a More Just, Sustainable Future
May 10, 2022
Tax Conference Explores Plans for a More Just, Sustainable Future

The D.C. Bar Taxation Community’s 2022 Tax Legislative and Regulatory Update conference, held virtually on May 4 and 5, included many sessions that considered how tax attorneys can help their clients work toward a future that is not only profitable, but also socially responsible. Lily L. Batchelder, assistant secretary for tax policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, presented the keynote address on the latest developments in the nation’s efforts to support the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Founded to stimulate economic progress and free trade, the OECD is working to ensure the fair taxation of multinational corporations.

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May 19, 2022
Technology and the Law, The Times Are Changing
May 19, 2022
Technology and the Law, The Times Are Changing

During the past 50 years, attorneys have seen unprecedented growth in the use of technology in their practice. This includes the overarching issue of the need to safeguard their clients’ privacy, not only here, but abroad. Our knowledgeable panel will provide an overview of the domestic and global challenges to safeguarding client privacy; government efforts to safeguard such information (e.g., the CCPA and GDPR); relevant court decisions and statutory developments; and what attorneys need to know to meet their legal and ethical obligations.

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May 24, 2022
D.C. Bar Celebrates Leadership Academy Class of 2022 Graduates
May 24, 2022
D.C. Bar Celebrates Leadership Academy Class of 2022 Graduates

On May 20 the D.C. Bar celebrated the graduation of 24 attorneys from its John Payton Leadership Academy, an intensive training program focused on developing and refining the skills necessary for Bar members to become effective leaders.

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June 7, 2022
Charles R. Lowery Jr. Wins as D.C. Bar President-Elect
June 7, 2022
Charles R. Lowery Jr. Wins as D.C. Bar President-Elect

Charles R. Lowery Jr., director of legislative policy and external affairs at New American Funding, has been elected president-elect of the D.C. Bar for the 2022–2023 term. He will serve in that position for one year starting July 1 before becoming president in 2023. He will continue in office a third year as immediate past president. With Lowery’s installation, incumbent President-Elect Ellen M. Jakovic will become the Bar’s 51st president.

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June 8, 2022
“Why Should We Trust You?”: Survivor-Centered Legal Action in Africa
June 8, 2022
“Why Should We Trust You?”: Survivor-Centered Legal Action in Africa

D.C. Bar International Law Community fellow Sydney Taylor and Georgetown LAWA fellows Tosin Oke, Eunice Ndingo, and Ngenarr-Yassin Jeng discuss survivor-centered approaches to legal action against sexual violence in Africa. This episode is brought to you in part by our sponsors, ChatAgents and the American Heart Association’s Lawyers Have Heart 10K, 5K & Fun Walk.

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June 8, 2022
D.C. Bar Communities Announce Inaugural Trailblazer Award Recipients
June 8, 2022
D.C. Bar Communities Announce Inaugural Trailblazer Award Recipients

To commemorate the D.C. Bar’s 50th anniversary, the D.C. Bar Communities Office will be honoring six outstanding Communities members with its inaugural Trailblazer Awards, recognizing their leadership in their respective practice areas, excellence in their professional and personal lives, and dedication to the mission of the D.C. Bar. The honorees will be recognized at the D.C. Bar Celebration of Leadership on June 23 at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel.

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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 360º Conference
July 14, 2022
Practice 360º Conference

Practice 360º is a daylong conference from the D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service featuring a full day of 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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