Local Legal Professionals Honored for Volunteer Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two local attorneys and two Washington, D.C., law firms received this year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards for outstanding volunteer legal service to low-income individuals in the Washington region. The honorees received their awards on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at a brunch that followed the annual Red Mass for justices, judges, diplomats, lawyers and government officials.

The awards are given out each year by the John Carroll Society, a Washington area organization that provides spiritual, intellectual, charitable and social opportunities for Catholic professionals and business men and women in service to the Archbishop of Washington.

The honorees are all volunteers with the Catholic Charities Legal Network. Through the generosity of volunteer attorneys, the Legal Network offers free legal assistance at several locations in the District of Columbia and suburban Maryland to more than 3,000 individuals each year, all of whom are below the poverty line.  In addition, the network offers free legal education seminars to the community. Between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, nearly 5,060 pro bono hours were donated by the Legal Network’s corps of over 700 attorney volunteers representing over 45 large and small law firms, as well as sole practices. These hours were self-reported as of July 2017, and the Legal Network expects additional hours to be reported in the coming weeks and months. The estimated value of these hours is over $2.5 million.

This year’s Pro Bono Legal Service Awards honorees:

  • David L. Ralston, Jr. is a partner with the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP in its Washington, D.C., office. He chairs the firm’s Government & Public Policy Practice, and focuses his practice on government contract litigation and counseling, rail and air transportation, and national and homeland security. Mr. Ralston received his Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He has provided extensive support to the Catholic Charities Legal Network, including serving as Chair of the Legal Network’s Advisory Council from 2013 to 2016  and currently holding the position of Immediate Past Chair. Mr. Ralston has also accepted pro bono cases, conducts in-person client intake and recruits new volunteer attorneys for the Legal Network.
  • Richard Bonsignore has served as a volunteer attorney with the Catholic Charities Legal Network since 2015. A retired attorney, Mr. Bonsignore had a distinguished career in government and the private sector. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hope College and his law degree from the University of Louisville. He conducts in-person client intakes each week, assists in vetting the legal merit of various cases and follows up with clients about the status of their cases. Mr. Bonsignore also recruits volunteer attorneys for the Legal Network.
  • The law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates has more than 1,700 attorneys working in more than 50 practice areas in 22 offices spread across 4 continents.  Headquartered in New York, the law firm’s Washington, D.C., office is the firm’s second largest office, with nearly 300 attorneys working in over 30 different substantive practice areas. The firm has been recognized for its pro bono contributions including the Skadden Fellowship Program, which provides funding for graduating law students to provide legal services to the poor (including working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. The firm was selected for its outstanding pro bono support of the Legal Network by taking on complex litigation cases. Many lawyers have worked on cases over the years, overseen by Joseph Barloon, including Albert Starkus, Pat Haggerty, Eric Sweeney and John Coghlan. For the last three years, new firm associates have participated in pro bono work for the Legal Network as well. Accepting the award on behalf of the firm is Joseph L. Barloon. Mr. Barloon is a partner in the firm and co-leader of  its Consumer Financial Services practice. He coordinates the firm’s work with the Catholic Charities Legal Network, oversees cases and spearheads the firm’s participation in the Legal Network’s annual golf and tennis tournament.
  • Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP is an international law firm with over 1,200 lawyers in 20 offices throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America. The firm’s Washington, D.C., office has over 200 lawyers who provide a full range of legal services to clients in a variety of practice areas. The firm also has a strong commitment to pro bono legal service, challenging all of its attorneys to participate. They have been awarded Public Counsel’s 2017 Law Firm Pro Bono Award. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher attorneys have been volunteering with Catholic Charities Legal Network for decades, and conduct in-person intake each month. Howard Adler, a partner with the firm, served on the Legal Network’s Council from 1995 to 2002. Accepting the award on behalf of the firm is David P. Burns, a litigation partner whose practice focuses on white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations and regulatory enforcement matters. Mr. Burns coordinates the firm’s work with the Catholic Charities Legal Network.