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Tribute to Deborah Rhode

By Sande Buhai

Many people and organizations have been writing about the passing of Professor Deborah Rhode this month. Our section would not exist without her.

Professor Rhode was the embodiment of all of the virtues that those of us who care about social justice and public service hold dear. We will miss her inspiring leadership. During her term as President of the AALS in 1998, she created a Commission on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities to help law schools improve their pro bono programs. One of its recommendations was the formation of our section. Professor Rhode was the embodiment of life-long learning and leadership. Not only did her efforts result in the birth of our AALS section, she also was founding chair of the AALS Section on Leadership and founding president of the International Association of Legal Ethics.

Professor Rhode was one of our most important leaders in the fight to improve pro bono participation in law schools and throughout the profession. She was also a leader in the fields of legal ethics, women and gender, and most recently on leadership training for lawyers and law students. She authored 30 books and an uncountable number of articles in the fields of professional responsibility, leadership, and gender, law and public policy. Her extraordinary scholarly and policy work was matched only by her character and commitment to social justice. 

Over the course of her career, she received many awards: our first Rhode Award, the American Bar Association’s Michael Franck award for contributions to the field of professional responsibility, the American Bar Foundation’s W. M. Keck Foundation Award for distinguished scholarship on legal ethics, the American Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar award, the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award for her work on expanding public service opportunities in law schools, and the White House’s Champion of Change award for a lifetime of work in increasing access to justice.

The world will miss her and her many contributions. In her honor, we should all strive to step up and be the role model that she was.

Photo of Sande Buhai, Loyola Law School

Sande Buhai (sande.buhai@lls.edu) is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Public Interest and Pro Bono Programs at Loyola Marymount University, Loyola Law School