The Catholic University of America

Quoting a fellow student, CUA law Dean Veryl Miles urged the newest members of the law school community to "pick up the slack and make a difference" during her introductory remarks on Aug. 14.

1L's Challenged to Make Pro Bono Work a Life-Long Commitment

Foreign language instructors will often greet their new students in a different tongue on day one of class, immersing them in the sounds of a new vocabulary immediately.

Catholic University law school's Dean Veryl Miles took a similar approach on Aug. 14 when she greeted the 2009 incoming class with a word set that may have sounded unfamiliar to some. This vocabulary included terms such as service, compassion, integrity, charity, fairness, and justice, among others.

As has been customary during her deanship, Miles spent a good portion of her official welcome and introductory remarks to the law school's newest students stressing the unique obligations and opportunities that come to every lawyer to make meaningful contributions to society, and especially to lawyers grounded in Catholic social teaching.

"Pro bono work is often described as a professional obligation, but I think in truth it is more of a gift to others and to yourself," said Miles. "It is the gift of your legal training to your neighbor in need, who cannot afford to pay for them…but who cannot do without them."

The dean noted that October 2009 marks the first annual National Pro Bono Celebration, as designated by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The purpose of the initiative is to celebrate nationally the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation and our justice system.

The first-year students were also treated to a recent history of the law school's Legal Service Society, launched in 2006. In just three years, the student-run organization has made repeated trips to the Gulf Coast area to help residents deal with the lingering health, financial and legal problems caused by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the dean recounted some recent examples of extraordinary pro bono work performed by CUA law students through Columbus Community Legal Services, the school's legal clinic. Numbered among their achievements was success in prompting the D.C. government to act upon repeated complaints from residents of a notorious area nursing home.

Against the backdrop of the school's proud record of effective, compassionate pro bono service to others, Dean Miles set down a marker for the 1Ls.

"I have never challenged an entire class to make pro bono service a class goal, but there is a first time for everything," she said. "And so I challenge you when the time comes to sign up for pro bono service opportunities while at Catholic and make it a lifelong practice."

The challenge fell on receptive ears. One hundred and thirty-five students had already signed up to volunteer for the law school's Community Service Day, scheduled at six locations around the city on Tuesday, Aug. 18.