“What a lot of people don’t understand is that you’re guaranteed an attorney in a criminal case,” Jarratt said. “In a civil case, you’re not.” In civil cases, legal aid is more crucial because people with low incomes wouldn’t be able to protect themselves otherwise.
“Sometimes people don’t even realize the problem that they have is a legal problem, so they don’t even know to go to an attorney.”
This sort of civil legal aid work for low-income defendants takes a special type of attorney.
“The kind of person who takes this on is somebody who is committed to the public interest, they’re very mission-focused, they want to do good. Maybe they’ve had a personal experience, and they’ve seen what a difference an attorney can make,” said Jarratt.
It’s not a very lucrative line of work, and that’s where the D.C. Bar Foundation comes in.
“It’s very satisfying, but it’s also not very financially rewarding. Which is why the loan repayment assistance program … is so important,” she told What’s Working in Washington.
Funds departing the non-profit come from a wide variety of places, including individuals, corporations, local law firms and even banks.