Catholic University law school students volunteered nearly 12,000 hours to pro bono causes and services during the past year. That’s about 500 days of working around the clock for no academic credit or compensation.
Nonetheless, the value of their effort to others is immeasurable, as they were reminded on April 3 at the Fourth Annual CUA Law Pro Bono Reception honoring students, faculty, staff, alumni, and organizations, held in the law school’s atrium.
The event offered the opportunity for pro bono oriented students and outside organizations that support their work to reflect on its value to others. It was also an occasion to congratulate the group on a job well done.
“From conducting intake at court resource centers and brief advice clinics to providing homeless families in crisis with shelter information to helping immigrants achieve citizenship status, you all have touched lives in meaningful ways through your volunteer legal work,” said Marin Scordato, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research in his welcome remarks.
The keynote speaker was one of the country’s leading experts on pro bono service: Jim Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation.
Sandman told the audience that its work “upheld the highest values of the legal profession and the highest values of our nation” by helping to ensure that America’s system of justice is open and fair to all.
It is an uphill fight. Unable to afford their own attorneys, an estimated 63-million Americans are eligible for legal aid today. In eviction proceedings, for example, 98 percent of people are forced to navigate the intimidating process with no legal representation at all.
“There aren’t nearly enough Legal Aid lawyers to meet the need out there,” Sandman said. “You are doing something critically important to address that situation.”
Students were also reminded that in addition to the incomparable satisfaction of making a positive difference in another person’s life, their pro bono volunteerism also imparts skills and confidence that come with doing real-life work.
“I’ll make a prediction. Those of you who are doing pro bono work are going to become very successful lawyers,” Sandman said.
A number of people and endeavors received special mention for their pro bono service. They included Meaghan Pedati for her Street Law oversight and teaching over the past 3 years; Jon Tabacoff for his Street Law participation, as well as the hundreds of other pro bono hours he’s logged over six semesters; Emma Noftz and Alex Jenik for their co-presidency of Students for Public Interest Law this past year and their pro bono endeavors; Katherine Somers and Brian Farnkoff for their Legal Services Society leadership; and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at CUA Law, which this year completed nearly 100 tax returns for Brookland area residents.
In attendance were more than 50 students, 16 representatives from 10 pro bono partner organizations, five alumni and over 20 members of the faculty and staff.