Pro Bono Achievers Recognized

Good food, good company, good cheer.  Combine all three and you have the Annual Pro Bono Awards Ceremony honoring law students who spent many hours serving underrepresented clients in our community and beyond this academic year.

On April 18th, students were recognized for their outstanding achievements volunteering for pro bono projects and performing critical legal work on behalf of low-income individuals in a variety of areas of law.

91% of current UCI Law students undertook pro bono work since they arrived at the law school and 223 of you worked on projects this year alone.  This is truly a remarkable achievement.  In addition, 33 members of the graduating class will receive their diplomas wearing a gold cord (Honors for 120 hours) or a gold sash (High Honors for 200 hours.)  Many of you 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls even went above and beyond the call and exceeded the suggested pro bono goal for your year and for your tenure here.

Most Pro Bono Hours awards went to :  1L Kelly Galligan (91.75 hours); 2L Renee Amador (209 hours); and 3L Carly Edelstein (174 hours), with Carly also recognized for her cumulative hours of 366.5 performed during her entire law school career.  Staggering numbers!

For her work establishing the Education Rights Clinic and guiding it successfully through it’s growing pains, Lauren Kaplan won the Pro Bono Independent Spirit Award.

Leadership awards also went to Mimi Anh (Family Law Clinics at Legal Aid Society of Orange County); Adam Barry (Homelessness Litigation challenging a camping ordinance); Carly Edelstein (Saturday Academy of Law); Kelsey Galanter (Domestic Violence Declarations); Leah Gasser-Ordaz and Zeenat Hassan (Services for Homeless and Those on the Verge/CARES); Jessica Hodgkins (Homeless Benefits Project); Lauren Kaplan (Streetlaw); Jesse Keyser (IRAP); Lauren McKay (Armory Intake Clinics for the Homeless); Andrea Smith (Native American Boarding School Healing Project); Meg Tanaka (Disabled and Elderly Benefits/SSI Clinics); and Brooke Weitzman (Advanced Healthcare Directives.)

Gold cords went to Christina Chen, Jeanne Detch, Tiffany Full, Reed Grantham, Sabyl Landrum, Suzie Lawson, Christine Luu, Danny Moss, Brian Murray, Brian Olney, Jaclyn Stahl, Phil Syers, Chris Taylor, Danila Toscano, Brad Walters, and Tom Wilson for performing at least 120 hours of pro bono work during their three years here.

And sashes will adorn the robes of Alexandra Alvarez, Adam Barry, Joe Boniwell, Jenn Chin, Carly Edelstein, Zeenat Hassan, Jen Henry, Jessica Hodgkins, Lauren Kaplan, Michael Klinger, Richard Nguyen, Marissa Oxman, Darren Kerstein, Emma Rosenberg, Andy Smith, Meg Tanaka, and Ed Wunch for reaching 200 or more hours of volunteer work.

Those who were recognized for Pro Bono Achievement Awards were too numerous to list here, so we extend our apologies but also our congratulations for your wonderful commitment and hard work helping those in our community find justice that otherwise would allude them.  You’ve made a difference!

Thomas Edison said “(i)f we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”  Thank you UCI Law Students for astounding us all!

Nothing Trivial About Public Interest Law Fun(d)!

 Last Saturday night, UCI Law students, staff, and faculty gathered at the Hilton Orange County to raise money (for public interest summer fellowships), raise spirits (as the semester winds its way toward the final stretch), and raise hell (well, not quite) at the Community Trivia Quest and Silent Auction.

Teddy Nguyen, Brian Choc, Amy Meier, and Sahar Hafeez at the PILF Trivia Quest and Auction

Teddy Nguyen, Brian Choc, Amy Meier, and Sahar Hafeez at the PILF Trivia Quest and Auction

Teams representing the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California, O’Melveny & Myers, Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, and UCI School of Law, competed for the top prize in the trivia contest.  Questions relating to pop culture, law, history, music, cinema, sports, and more were delivered with rousing good humor by Professor Bob Solomon, who many of you may not know has always harbored dreams of game show stardom.  Angela Perry valiantly attempted to keep contestants from buzzing in early and Claire-Lise Kutlay deftly handled question clarifications.  The winner of the first-place medal was AAA, with the law school team taking top honors for being very good sports.

Michael Klinger with Alum Edgar

Michael Klinger with 2012 Alum Edgar Aguilasocho

Zeenat Hassan, Bob Solomon (in his Hawaiian best), and Meg Tanaka.

Zeenat Hassan, Bob Solomon (in his Hawaiian best), and Meg Tanaka.

The silent and live auctions were filled with wonderful items, including event tickets, luxury trips, artwork, cooking classes, fun activities with faculty, and much more.  The free drink tickets certainly contributed to the high bidding for trips to Sedona and Hawaii, as did the knowledge that all money spent will go directly to fund student public interest legal work on behalf of underserved individuals and communities this summer.

Kate Wagner, Emma Rosenberg, and Lauren Kaplan -- their last PILF fundraiser as students :(

Kate Wagner, Emma Rosenberg, and Lauren Kaplan — their last PILF fundraiser as students :(

Favorite images for me were Angela Perry and Crystal Adams dancing to Kool & the Gang between trivia matches; seeing all the law students dressed for the red carpet and looking great; the enormous slab of meat occupying the carving table, which would have dwarfed Brooke Weitzman’s dog, Comet, had he been lucky enough to be there to gnaw on the carcass; and meeting students’ family members and partners who joined us to support public interest law at UCI.

Professor Whytock, Hank Hymanson, and peace-loving Margaux Poueymirou.

Professor Whytock, Hank Hymanson, and peace-loving Margaux Poueymirou.

Thank you everyone who came out to support UCI law students working on behalf of low-income clients this summer and for making this community a very special place.

All the Muse That’s Fit to Print

Hello and welcome to the first post of the Pro Bono blog!  Walt Disney once said “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” — and since we dwell in the shadow of Disneyland (with the ubiquitous bunny rabbits to prove it) — it seemed like apt advice.

So it is with these words in mind that I congratulate all of you who began “doing” as well by volunteering for pro bono work this semester.  I don’t need to tell you that your good work helps many underserved individuals and communities in our surrounding counties who face serious legal issues, and offers the added benefit of developing professional skills that will serve you and your clients very well during your entire career — wherever that career leads you.

Saturday Academy of Law

Michael Armstrong discusses the First Amendment with Santa Ana 9th-graders at Saturday Academy of Law

Since I have been at UCI, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you and watching as you reach out to clients in a variety of settings and circumstances to help them navigate very difficult events in their lives.  You may have prepared a declaration for a domestic violence victim that will enable them to secure a TRO.  Perhaps, you filled out paperwork for someone who has needed a divorce for years but was unable to negotiate the legal procedures.

Pro Bono students volunteering for Mankinen Settlement project

Pro Bono students volunteering for Mankinen Homeless Benefits Settlement project at Legal Aid Society of Orange County

Many of you interviewed homeless individuals or those on the brink about accessing critical relief benefits.  You have taught constitutional law to Santa Ana 9th-graders and informed parents of their rights to access special ed services for their children.   At least one of you recently battled a cantankerous judge at an unemployment benefits hearing and succeeded on all counts.  Wherever you volunteered, you have made a difference.

Regardless of whether you are working on research remotely, or traveling to a non-profit to meet with clients, or working with supervising attorneys from private firms on a variety of legal issues, your work is helping to alleviate the chasm that has widened in recent years between the unrepresented and the mounting legal needs they face.

While you are helping your clients, they are also helping you.  Not only are your legal reasoning, interviewing, negotiating, and writing skills getting a good workout, but your ability to empathize with those you meet, gain their trust, and connect with a diverse group of people in the wider community is an invaluable lesson that can only be attained outside of a classroom.

Chariese Solorio assisting a client at the Family Law Blitz

Chariese Solorio assisting a client at the Family Law Blitz

So thank you for your time and commitment to providing access to justice and please keep up the good work!