I was pleased to attend the induction ceremony for students earning membership in the Pro Bono Society last evening in Eisenberg Hall. Students who logged 60 hours of non-credit public service work during law school are eligible. Sixteen students were separately honored for logging at least 120 hours. It was a lovely evening, with Dean Kearney recognizing the importance of both the learned and service aspects of the law. I was there to support and recognize those students who spent many of those hours at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, with which I have been involved since its inception. I could not have been more proud of these talented, committed students.
Looking for an outlet for myself several years back after retiring from private practice, I was fortunate enough to stumble into this project at its inception. In my first post I talked about what a wonderful collaboration the pot luck dinners shared by all the women in my class were–supportive, helpful and fun. Well, collaboration has served me well over and over again in my career as a lawyer, particularly so with the MVLC. In 2001, two students approached the Pro Bono Committee of the Association for Women Lawyers, seeking help with an idea. As I like to say, we naively took it on.
Eight years later I can comfortably claim that the project has been a success. It started with two law students and about six practicing attorneys who worked beautifully to put this together. But we have consistently relied on and drawn in other groups to help make it the success it is today. This includes the House of Peace and the Council for Spanish Speaking (where our two clinics are located), Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc., Quarles & Brady LLC (which staffs and provides financial support to our south side location), and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, among others. And we are looking forward to further collaborations with the new Justice Center at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and possibly others.
Of course, we are the MARQUETTE Volunteer Legal Clinic, which means the law students are an essential, critical part of this effort. While the MVLC began under Dean Eisenberg, we have enjoyed tremendous support from Dean Kearney, whose strategic vision has allowed us to flourish and be part of a much larger, deliberate focus and commitment to public service at the law school. Congratulations to all of the students who earned this recognition and to the law school for making this a priority.