Pro Bono & Community Outreach

At Van Ness Feldman, we strive to create long-lasting partnerships with the communities that we call home. Undertaking pro bono and community service projects are not only a professional obligation, they are valued as an individual, personal responsibility for everyone at the firm.

  • COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT & ANNUAL GIVING

    Van Ness Feldman prioritizes opportunities to give back to our communities. During the holiday season, the firm makes donations to worthy charities recommended by our employees--this annual program increases in size for each year of the firm's existence.  In 2018, the firm made donations to 42 charities, one for each year of the firm’s existence. 

    Our Seattle office spearheads the Annual Thanksgiving Charitable Matching Program, which has benefited numerous local and national nonprofit organizations. Since its inception, the program has generated more than a half-million dollars for charitable organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Each year, clients, colleagues, and friends of the firm receive a custom-designed card that invites them to make donations that qualify for a matched donation by the firm.

     

  • PRO BONO REPRESENTATIONS

    Pro bono service is a core value of Van Ness Feldman and a key part of our commitment to the places we call home. Our work in this area seeks to balance our commitments to our local communities – the District of Columbia, the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, and, as a national law firm, to the nation as a whole. Below are recent examples of the firm’s pro bono work.

    Asylum Cases – The firm represents persons seeking asylum in the United States on the grounds that if they were returned to their home countries, they would suffer death, torture or imprisonment solely because of their beliefs, affiliations, or identifications. The firm partners with the Catholic Charities, which screens the cases and supports our attorneys.

    Housing – In a partnership with D.C. Law Students in the Courts, the firm represents homeowners who have been subjected to improper treatment by financial institutions and tenants whose rights have been violated by landlords.

    Legislative Lobbying –  College and Community Fellowship is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting female prisoners in federal prisons prepare for life after they are released. One of the obstacles prisoners face is an existing federal law that prohibits access to federal education funds to pay for on-line courses, books, etc., even though studies have shown that a person who earns a degree while in prison is 50 percent less likely to return to prison than those who did not. The firm is using its legislative lobbying capability to seek to persuade Congress to lift this prohibition.

    Children’s Issues – The firm assisted both the National PTA and the National Network for Youth in drafting legislation to further their organizations’ goals, including assisted with drafting comprehensive legislation that requires school districts to fully involve parents in their programs while providing them with financial assistance to do so. The firm also assisted the National Network for Youth with legislation to prohibit judges from incarcerating youth just because they were homeless. The firm received awards from both organizations for its work on their behalf.

    Disabled Veterans Benefits Appeal Cases – The firm represents individual veterans who have been denied disability payments by helping them to appeal the decision against them to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Appeals. The cases are referred to the firm by the Veterans Appeals Consortium.

    NextStep – NextStep, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization, provides the opportunity for life-long health and recovery for people living with paralysis and mobility impairments in communities nationwide by developing outpatient facilities, particularly in communities with a concentration of wounded veterans, so that they do not have to uproot their lives and families to move to a city with an in-patient facility to obtain the most effective treatment for regaining the use of their arms and legs. The firm uses its knowledge of the federal government to assist NextStep in drafting proposals to federal agencies to access federal funding and other programs to support its goals.

    Sprout Therapeutic Riding Stable – Sprout is a not-for-profit organization that provides therapeutic riding services, also known as equine assisted therapy, to children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. A particular focus is on wounded veterans as equine assisted psychotherapy has proven to be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. The firm’s first pro bono work for Sprout involved assisting it in its application for 501(c)(3) non-profit certification from the IRS. The firm used its knowledge of and relationships with various agencies of the federal government to identify potential sources of funding and draft proposals and grant applications to agencies and private foundations to support the Sprout's services. Finally, the firm used its strategic planning expertise to assist Sprout develop a long-term strategic plan and budget.

  • TRAUMA-INFORMED POLICY & PROGRAMS

    Van Ness Feldman is the leading law firm in the county in providing legal and policy advice to non-profit organizations dedicated to putting the powerful scientific discoveries about the causes and effects of childhood and historical trauma to work in federal, state and local policies and programs.

    Over the past 20 years, neuroscientists have proven that severe childhood trauma, such as neglect, emotional or physical abuse, having an incarcerated parent, or when a community has its world turned upside down, such as the Holocaust, slavery, and the near-destruction of Native Americans’ way of life, cause physiological changes to the brain that lead those suffering from such trauma to live under constant stress.  Studies have shown the major problems facing society today – substance abuse, obesity, domestic violence, poor work performance, and in extreme cases, suicide – are in many cases related to trauma suffered as a child.  Preventing trauma in future generations, and helping those who have already suffered trauma heal, offers a significant opportunity to address these problems.

    Van Ness Feldman is proud to have helped found and currently serves as pro bono general counsel and policy advisors, to two national trauma-informed organizations.  By putting our expertise in impacting federal policy for our clients, along with  40 years of providing legal advice and counsel to  Native American and Alaska Native communities, to work in assist these organizations in reaching their goals.  Our notable efforts include:

    • The Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) – Created in 2016, CTIPP is the only national organization whose sole mission is to promote trauma-informed policy and practice.  In recognition that a trauma-informed strategy requires the participation of every institution in a community, CTIPP’s membership is composed of experts from a broad range of disciplines – education, health, social service, law, law enforcement, and others.  Van Ness Feldman serves as the policy arm of CTIPP, educating members of Congress about trauma-science, submitting testimony, helping draft trauma-informed legislation, and generally preparing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to get trauma-science incorporated into federal laws and policies.  The firm also runs a monthly call to inform local trauma-informed coalitions about what is happening in Congress with regard to trauma legislation, as well as assisting local coalitions in advocating with their Congressperson and Senators to create a grassroots movement for trauma-informed laws and policies.  In 2018, Daniel Press, the Partner who heads the firm’s trauma-informed advocacy practice, received In November 2018, Dan received the Public Advocacy award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for "Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma,"In November 2018, Dan received the Public Advocacy award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for "Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma,"In November 2018, Dan received the Public Advocacy award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for "Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma,"In November 2018, Dan received the Public Advocacy award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for "Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma,"the Public Advocacy Award for “Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing Social Understanding of Trauma” from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, in recognition of his work with CTIPP.

    • The Roundtable on Native American Trauma-Informed Initiatives – Incorporated by the firm in 2015, the Roundtable is the only organization whose sole mission is to educate and assist tribal communities to address the childhood and historical trauma that permeates their communities by combining the scientific discoveries regarding trauma with the use of their own traditional healing practices.  As the Roundtable’s policy arm, the firm works to educate Congress and federal agencies about the need to take a trauma-informed approach to address problems in Native American communities. On behalf of the Roundtable, the firm hosts a monthly conference call for tribal representatives to provide them with information on trauma-informed initiatives taking place in Congress and in Native American communities. The firm has also co-sponsored and made presentations at trauma-informed conferences and has prepared and disseminates at no cost a How-to Manual to Assist Tribal Communities Implement Comprehensive Trauma-informed Initiatives.

    For more information contact Daniel Press,  at 202-298-1882, or dsp@vnf.com.