Dear Pro Bono and Public Interest Section Members,
I am exceptionally pleased to be the Chair of the Section this year, although I could have wished for a more normal environment. For those of you who don’t know me – or have forgotten – I am Clinical Professor and Director of the Public Interest Department at LMU Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. I have been doing this job forever, or at least since 1994 when we started our mandatory pro bono program. In the more than 25 years since, I have had the great pleasure of working with many amazing folks around the country and look forward to continuing to do so.
I know we are all struggling with the reality of COVID 19 – as I write this from home with my kids playing Animal Crossing (a very cute video game) and my dogs happy as can be with everyone home. Many of us were looking forward to seeing each other, either at Externships 10, the Equal Justice Conference, or the AALS Clinical Conference, but I hope we can still manage to reach out to each other remotely. In California, we are fortunate to have Michael Winn at Stanford who sets up a monthly call for folks working in the Pro Bono and Public Service arena.
As for section news, the amazing Sue Schechter is planning a great program for the AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco (keep your fingers crossed) and has also started a conversation about the goals and future of the section. We will still be giving our two awards, the Drinan and Rhode awards, so keep your eyes out for notices about the award process. The members of the Executive Committee and many other members of the section have always been extremely generous with their time, advice and judgment. As we struggle to make sure our students can safely participate in and complete pro bono projects, I encourage you to reach out to other members of the Section should you need any help.
Also, the ABA is coordinating some pro bono efforts. In support of these efforts, over 300 law students, paralegals, and student paralegals have offered to provide remote pro-bono support for COVID-related matters. These students stand ready to provide research, drafting, and other support to attorneys. If attorneys are interested in receiving student support on their COVID-19 related matters, they should fill out this form. If students are interested in providing support, they should fill out this form. Questions and concerns can be directed to Alyssa Leader (firstname.lastname@example.org), a student helping to coordinate this pro bono effort.
Finally, I am inspired by the people working to help every day during this crisis — from the law students and legal service providers who are helping the communities and people most traumatically affected by COVID-19 to all the health care workers, grocery store clerks and regular folks coming together to keep their communities going. Our section also joins others to honor the lives of George Floyd of Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor and David McAtee of Louisville, Tony McDade and Mychael Johnson of Tallahassee, and Ahmaud Arbery of Glyn County, Georgia and all Black lives taken by police violence. We are in solidarity with Black people demanding justice across the country. Perhaps as a result of this epidemic and crisis, our country will move towards valuing helping others more highly.