How Obama White House alums are helping nonprofits get legal help - Technical.ly DC

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Jan. 30, 2018 12:52 pm

How Obama White House alums are helping nonprofits get legal help

We The Action is a platform helping organizations link with pro bono lawyers. It's channeling energy in the progressive legal community, said executive director Sarah Baker.

Sarah Baker, executive director of We The Action.

(Courtesy Photo)

About this time last year, Sarah Baker was headed to Washington Dulles International Airport to protest the travel ban on seven Middle Eastern countries initiated by President Donald Trump. Less than two weeks prior, she left her office at the White House after six promising years as the special assistant to President Barack Obama, running a team vetting all of the president’s key positions and as the policy director for Dr. Jill Biden.

“You had thousands of people protesting at airports, which was incredible, but also understandably disorganized,” Baker said. “I was just like a lot of other people after the election in 2016, and I found myself asking what I could do, how I could help.” 

A few months later, Baker became the executive director of We The Action, a 501(c)4 nonprofit dedicated to linking volunteer lawyers to nonprofit organizations. She recently hired some other former White House staff to the team. Attorney Jacek Pruski has been named managing director and general counsel and Katie Waldo has been hired as chief operating officer. Pruski, a lawyer, worked in the Obama White House and multiple branches of the federal government, and Waldo is the former White House Trip Manager.

“We have seen threats to our Democracy,” Baker said. “I don’t mean to sound too apocalyptic, but we have seen the values and institutions that we hold dear threatened, and there are so many groups and organizations that are doing their part and we are just looking to shore up those values that we hold dear.”

Interested lawyers can sign up on the We The Action platform, where nonprofits with critical needs post their projects. Participating organizations include the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Time’s Up and access democracy.

We The Action now has hundreds of pro bono attorneys in every state in the country.

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“One of the things we wanted to do is make this as easy as possible for lawyers to get engaged and involved,” Baker said. “Lawyers create a profile, check a box with years of practice under their experience and then they can browse all of the available projects that they think are a good fit.”

In channeling her own energy, she is helping others get involved, too.

“What I’m doing right now is such a great opportunity to really engage and harness this energy and enthusiasm in the progressive legal community and channel that to causes that I really care about,” she said. “There is continued momentum and people continue to want to be engaged and step up and do something, and that’s incredibly energizing and inspiring.”

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