Classes officially begin this week at Gonzaga University School of Law.
Many students go above and beyond to not only receive a legal education, but to take that knowledge and use it to help the communities around them. The following article provides a brief overview of some of the ways in which students at Gonzaga University use the school’s programs, initiatives, and resources to give back.
Not long from now, legal professionals from around the state, country, and the world will pause and reflect during Pro Bono Month on the invaluable impact pro bono has on people who face dire circumstances yet are unable to access legal services. For a comprehensive overview of pro bono opportunities and the history of civil legal aid in Washington, check last October’s issue of NWLawyer. And keep an eye for this October’s issue, which will feature a variety of unique and inspiring features about Washington legal professionals who generously donate their time and expertise to make the world around them a better place.
Pro Bono Programs at Gonzaga
Gonzaga University School of Law, as part of its mission to educate the whole person to serve the public good, is dedicated to supporting student participation in pro bono and public service. This dedication is exemplified by the graduation requirement that all law students complete at least 30 hours of public service, the school’s recognition of students who serve the community.
Gonzaga’s Pro Bono Distinction program recognizes students who complete at least 30 pro bono service hours during the span of two terms, and awards the Dean’s Pro Bono Award of Distinction to the student with the most hours in each graduating class. This year, 3L Nichole Anderson completed nearly 800 pro bono hours with the Attorney General’s Social and Health Services Division in Spokane.
“While the difficult subject matter involved often means the cases are heart-breaking and involve outcomes that have a substantial impact on people’s lives—which certainly adds a lot of pressure sometimes—it is the most worthwhile work I have ever done,” Anderson said.
Gonzaga also opened the new Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR), which supports pro bono and public service work through a variety of programs and opportunities including the Thomas More Scholarship, a three-year, full-tuition scholarship for students committed to completing 240 hours of pro bono service prior to graduation; the WSBA Moderate Means Program (MMP); and Transitions Women’s Hearth Clinics; and summer stipends
This year’s recipients of up to $5,000 in stipends were 3L Rebecca Smith (Bay Area Legal Aid) and 2L Bailey Pahang (ACLU). Smith is also a Thomas More Scholar, the law school’s Public Service Liaison, Gonzaga’s Equal Justice Works representative, and the student board member for Columbia Legal Services’ board of directors.
“Pro bono opportunities are everywhere and, as lawyers, there is a professional and moral obligation to do this work,” Smith said. “Using the law to protect the rights of low-income people who cannot afford a lawyer is what justice is all about, and it’s what breathes meaning into the profession.”
WSBA Moderate Means Program
These students commit at least five hours per week of pro bono work, with responsibilities that include screening and interviewing clients, drafting case summaries, and managing a caseload. Hisrael Carranza, currently a 2L, is one of the outstanding students in the MMP worth noting. In addition to serving as the Minority and Justice Commission student liaison and the diversity chair for the law school, he completed his pro bono MMP hours in the evenings and weekends over the summer, while his days were dedicated to another full-time internship. Maggie Schott, an MMP attorney who worked with Carranza, said he is one of the most responsive students when a need arises.
“What I enjoy most about MMP at Gonzaga is the opportunity to provide real-time help,” Carranza said. “The people need the help now, and I can help now.”
Transitions Women’s Hearth Clinics
Through the Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Hearth offers family law and estate planning clinics to women experiencing homelessness. Law students are paired with a volunteer lawyer and given the opportunity to interact with clients, hear their stories, and have a chance to provide legal advice. For many law students it is their first client interaction and fosters a desire to do more pro bono work.
CCHR will continue to partner with community organizations to develop more drop-in, pro bono opportunities for students. For attorneys who would like to support Gonzaga’s efforts personally or financially, please contact Michele Fukawa, assistant director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This content was provided by the Gonzaga University School of Law.