Law Students of Hope

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This past Friday, Marquette Law School held a celebration of hope – hope for our community, hope for the legal profession, and hope for our institution.  The 2011 Posner Pro Bono Exchange between Fr.  Fred Kammer, S.J., director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University in New Orleans and Mike Gousha, Distinguished Fellow of Law and Public Policy at Marquette Law School, followed immediately by the induction of 91 new law student members of the Pro Bono Society (bringing the total to 103 for the academic year), was bounded by hope.

How could we alumni, staff, faculty, and donors in attendance not find hope and admiration for so many law students who committed themselves to placing their legal education at the service of those in need, without credit or compensation, even in the midst of a difficult economy and increasing academic competition?  There is no requirement to perform such voluntary service, yet, each year, an increasing number of our law students choose to perform more than fifty hours of supervised, law-related, volunteer service in our community.  Whether at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, the Legal and Medical Partnership for Families, the Marquette Foreclosure Mediation Program, the Marquette Legal Initiative for Nonprofit Corporations, or any of a dozen other programs or placements, these students render a real service to those in need – and in so doing, begin a career commitment to the principal of pro bono publico – service for the good of the public.

Fr. Kammer reminded us that service to others, particularly service to the most vulnerable among us, is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching and thus, a central theme of Jesuit education.  Continue reading “Law Students of Hope”

Public Service Conference to Consider Consumer and Community Financial Protection

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Please join us for “New Directions in Consumer and Community Financial Protection,” the 2011 Marquette University Law School Public Service Conference.  We have an outstanding lineup of speakers, including Greg Zoeller, the Attorney General of Indiana and co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Consumer Protection Committee; Charles Harwood, the Deputy Director for Consumer Protection at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission; Don Graves, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Small Business, Community Development, and Housing Policy, U.S. Department of Treasury; and Kathleen Keest, Policy Director at the Center for Responsible Lending.

The Conference will focus attention on consumer financial regulatory reform at both the state and federal level, with a particular emphasis on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and its implications for low-income and disadvantaged communities, and local enforcement of consumer protection laws.  The Conference will be held on Friday, February 25, 2011, in Eckstein Hall.  CLE credit is available, and attendees will enjoy breakfast, lunch, and a reception.  Review the entire Conference agenda here and register today.  I hope to see you there.

What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Law School, Part V

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I arrived late to law school. Not late in the figurative sense, as in “late in life,” but literally late. I had skipped orientation in favor of squeezing out the very last vestiges of swelter that passed for summer in Washington, D.C. I was overconfident — and I was late. These two particular traits plagued me for some time to come, and they proved antithetical to the practice of law. Why something so obvious was not obvious to me I do not know, but I repeat the story here as an incentive for current students to cultivate from the start much better habits.

Law school is not an easy endeavor. It requires rigorous attention to detail, thorough preparation, and psychological grit. Although I picked up on these themes, I entered the cocoon of a small and close-knit study group to do so. This can be an effective adaptive strategy, but there are many other methods of study and coping that are equally if not more useful. Find a method that works for you. And don’t shy away from challenging courses, or those you think you will never utilize. I very much doubted the career utility of many of the “business-oriented” classes, but I took them anyway and they proved to be among the most helpful in practice, since I ended up focusing on consumer law.

Gradually I also came to realize that there was life outside of law school and that it was I who was excluding it.  Continue reading “What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Law School, Part V”

Supporting Servicemembers and Veterans

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DF-SC-84-11899On this Veterans Day we remember the service of so many in the armed forces and merchant marine.   We are grateful for their public service and wish to support them in their return to civilian life.  As we have been made all too aware, the sacrifices extend beyond the servicemembers to their families and communities.   

Almost two years ago, we convened a group of servicemembers and veterans here at Marquette Law School to explore ways the Law School could support their service.    Spearheaded by a district legal services attorney for the U.S. Coast Guard (which maintains an active base in Milwaukee), this committee grew to include officers and enlisted personnel from the Army, Air Force, Naval Reserve, and Wisconsin National Guard, as well as veterans.   This committee alerted us to some of the legal challenges facing military personnel, their families, and veterans.   For example, Judge Advocates General can provide advice to military personnel regarding civil legal matters, but they do not represent them in civilian courts.   Sometimes a service member is not attached to a unit – either separated or in Individual Ready Reserve – and thus does not have easy access to a Unit JAG.  Other times, JAG offices may be at a headquarters base hundreds of miles from their duty station and unfamiliar with local court rules.   Similarly, while veterans receive a number of benefits through the county, state, and federal veterans administrations, access to legal counsel is not one of them.

Thus, with support from the State Bar of Wisconsin and the ABA,  Marquette Law School launched SAVLAW: Servicemembers and Veterans Legal Assistance for Wisconsin.  Continue reading “Supporting Servicemembers and Veterans”

Marquette Law School Celebrates Pro Bono Week

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Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend two inspiring events – the Milwaukee Bar Association’s first Pro Bono Publico Awards ceremony, held at the annual State of the Court luncheon. Marquette 3L Meghan O’Connor was among the honorees. Meghan was awarded this honor for her substantial pro bono commitment at the Law School, particularly her role as the student liaison for the newly launched Legal and Medical Partnership for Families at the Downtown Health Center

In the evening, a Milwaukee Young Lawyers Association gathering brought together recent law graduates and public interest law firms in an effort to increase awareness about pro bono opportunities in the Milwaukee area. Again, Marquette Law School was prominently featured, both by the presence of many alumni and the many pro bono opportunities that the Law School has initiated not only for its students, but for lawyers in the community as well.

These events were a precursor to the National Pro Bono Celebration scheduled for October 25 through 31, 2009.

Sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the celebration is a coordinated national effort to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve. The week is also dedicated to the quest for more pro bono volunteers to meet the ever-growing legal needs of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.

Marquette Law School is enthusiastically joining this celebration. On Friday, Dean Joseph D. Kearney will announce the opening of the new Milwaukee Volunteer Legal Clinic at the Milwaukee Justice Center in the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Dean Kearney will appear alongside the Chief Judge from the First Judicial Circuit, the Clerk of Courts, and the President of the Milwaukee Bar Association. This will be the fourth location for the MVLC, which provides pro bono opportunities for nearly 150 law students and 100 lawyers every year. Marquette Law School was a key partner in the development of the Milwaukee Justice Center, an effort led by the Milwaukee Bar Association, and provides many volunteer law students at the MJC’s self-help desks as well.

The following week, on Thursday, January 29, law students will join pro bono attorneys and members of the Coalition for Access to Legal Resources at a luncheon to celebrate pro bono week. CALR was another effort initiated by the Law School through the MVLC to provide a regular forum for public interest law firms to meet and share information on legal services in greater Milwaukee. In celebration of pro bono week, the members of CALR will gather at noon in Marquette’s Eisenberg Hall to discuss legal services, public interest careers, and pro bono opportunities with law students.

Marquette has made tremendous strides to increase the opportunity and engagement in legal services pro bono publico, for both Marquette law students and the Milwaukee bar. Three-quarters of our students now engage in some form of pro bono activity. Under the excellent leadership of Marquette Law School’s Pro Bono Coordinator, Adie Olson, that percentage is expected to grow. Marquette’s Pro Bono Society has increased membership each year, and we are pleased to be so committed and engaged in this good work in our community — just another way Marquette is building a new law school.

Justice Involves Communities

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This past week, the 2009 Marquette Law School Public Service Conference focused on the efforts of communities across the nation to rethink criminal justice policy with a greater emphasis on community involvement in both planning and implementation.  Over the past two decades, Wisconsin has more than quintupled its public expenditures for corrections. At the same time, local communities have struggled with increasing jail populations and declining resources for treatment and reentry services.  At the core of this challenge is the desire to keep communities safe while providing more effective alternatives to long term incarceration.

These challenges are not unique to Wisconsin.  As keynote speaker Jeremy Travis pointed out,

As our nation has reacted to rising crime rates over the years, the response of many elected officials has been to turn to the funnel [arrest, prosecution and incarceration,] as a crime control strategy. . . . We have invested enormous sums of money in these crime control strategies, with profound consequences. . . . Most strikingly, the national rate of incarceration has more than quadrupled over the past generation so that America now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.

This approach has been accompanied by a drop in the crime rate.  It also has had other sociological consequences which are not as easily quantifiable.  Continue reading “Justice Involves Communities”