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MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR – NOVEMBER 2021

Dear AALS, Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section Friends,

A wise human said, “Compassion is wisdom plus love.”  I do not know who actually said that quote but given the state of the world and the work we do, it really spoke to me as I thought of you all and the amazing things you are building and moving forward on your law school campuses, local communities, legal profession, and the world.  As I wind down my year as Chair, I want to say thank you to all of you who have jumped in, taken on a task or event, and helped support the Section.  And please keep it up! Thank you!!!

With too many issues on the access to justice agenda and needing pro bono attention, I invite you all to take a moment – and just be – be still, be quiet, be reflective, and as another famous human once said – be a human ‘be-ing’ instead of a human ‘do-ing.’  As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence.  It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”  While political warfare is a strong statement, this is the kind of warfare we should all be engaging in – taking care of ourselves, so we can take care of others as we all work to repair and heal the world, with love and with wisdom.

These days I am learning from many teachers, and I wanted to share two recent articles that have spoken to me in very profound ways – and I make no claim to objectivity, as these are two dear friends doing important work in our field:

  1. Anne Gordon, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Externships, Duke Law School, has written a piece – Better Than our Biases:  Using Psychological Research to Inform Our Approach to Inclusive, Effective Feedback, in the Spring 2021, Clinical Law Review.  Anne’s article will introduce you to biases you probably did not even know you had, or at least did not know the name for them, and even more importantly, she provides insights and tools into how to confront these biases and support students in their learning.  While her focus is on feedback in the clinical/externship world, there are many lessons for pro bono and public service faculty and staff as we strive to ensure that all feel welcomed into our programs.
  2. Janet Thompson Jackson, Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law, has written Wellness and Law: Reforming Legal Education to Support Student Wellness, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3839050  (forthcoming 65 Howard L.J. 1 (Fall 2021)).  Janet looks at professional identity through an interesting and innovative lens, putting forth the concept that wellness, including mindfulness and other practices, are a critical component in raising the next generation of legal professionals. She introduces concepts and provides tools to help think about these concepts and frame them in our work with students. 

In these scary and difficult moments, I hope you are holding your loved ones close and taking time to be grateful for all you have and the path ahead. 

As the Section prepares for the transition to the 2022 year with new officers and new projects, if you are interested in coming on board and helping to lead these efforts, please contact Kiva Zytnick, zytnick@cua.edu to learn more. I close by expressing my gratitude and acknowledge my good fortune in getting to work with many of you – thank you, you keep me going.

– Sue Schechter

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2022 Annual Meeting Program

Prioritizing Public Service in Your Role as the Dean: Why it Matters

On Saturday, January 8 at 12:35 (eastern), the section on Pro Bono & Public Service and the Dean Section will jointly sponsor the session “Prioritizing Public Service in Your Role as the Dean: Why it Matters.” Moderated by Section Chair Sue Schechter, the panel of deans will discuss why they prioritize supporting public service, pro bono, and other social justice initiatives at their law schools. What are the essential ingredients when building a strong culture of service within law schools? How do deans support, financially and otherwise, the costs of pro bono and public service when budgets are tight? How do service-oriented programs support successful admissions, curricular, career planning, and alumni relations efforts? How can law schools respond meaningfully to the access to justice crisis? This will be an engaging discussion for deans, associate & assistant deans, and pro bono & public service program managers alike.

For more information about the AALS 2022 Annual Meeting, click here.

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Book Review- Don’t Let It Get You Down, Essays on Race, Gender and the Body, by Savala Nolan

By Sue Schechter, Berkeley Law

Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender and the Body, by Savala Nolan

Savala Nolan has written an important work that is a must-read for all who care about race and gender.  She is an incredible writer, so on some level, the book is easy to read – the sentences flow and the stories are funny.  But make no mistake, this book is also hard to read – it will be painful for any reader who is awake.  Nolan makes herself incredibly vulnerable and in doing so demonstrates her power and her kindness.  The stories she shares are painful because they are real, and because they are all too common.  She does not claim easy answers. She does not let us feel okay just because we are doing the work of reading her essays, which are really beautifully written with many sentences verging on a poetic leaning.  Instead, she presents her truth and leaves it up to the reader what to do with it.  For a legal audience, there will be interesting references, and for others there will be cultural references to relate to. And for all, this is a book that you should purchase for yourself, for your friends, for your neighbors, and for others in your community – it is a must-read this year given the world and all we are claiming to confront in these scary and sad moments.

Savala Nolan is the Executive Director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law.  The book was recently published in 2021 by Simon and Schuster.

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Pop-Up Survey Responses

On September 28, Stephen Rispoli asked Section members to respond to two ‘Pop-Up’ survey questions. Responses to the fun questions are below:

Q1: How did you feel about the return to school in the Fall? You can respond only using memes.

Q2: What show did you binge-watch during the pandemic?

Angela Schultz, Marquette law: An old HBO series called “Looking”

Jennifer Tschirch, Marquette Law: Aspirational binge: Ted Lasso (haven’t gotten around to getting Apple TV+!)

Pamela Robinson, USC School of Law: Did not binge watch TV. Watched my bees and read books

Alissa Rubin Gomez, University of Houston Law Center: During the pandemic, I binged watched my children. That’s literally it.

Anna Davis, UC Irvine School of Law: Tiger King, Bridgerton (3x!), Jack Ryan

Kiva K. Zytnick, Columbus School of Law: Survivor; Schitt’s Creek

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State of the South 2022: Supporting Access to Justice through Academic Research: Call for Proposals

As part of its mission, the Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State Law builds bridges between academics, practitioners, and policymakers. To that end, several of our faculty have worked in a research capacity with local non-profits and state government entities to increase access to justice. For this year’s State of the South, we have partnered with Georgia State Law’s Legal Analytics and Innovation Initiative to showcase how universities partner with outside entities, using both traditional and cutting-edge research techniques, to move the access to justice needle in the South.

As part of this year’s conference, we plan to highlight collaborations across the region between university researchers and non-profit organizations and/or government entities, as well as the challenges and opportunities that can come with doing such work in the South. We welcome those who have engaged in such collaborations, those who want to learn more about how such partnerships come about or operate, those who would like to engage in such collaboration in the future (either as researcher or research partner), and anyone who is curious about how such partnerships can advance access to justice goals.

For this half-day virtual event, on Friday, May 6, 2022, we will host facilitated conversations between researchers and their research partners, followed by input from funders who can provide grant support for such projects, and plenty of time for attendees to engage through Q&A with those who have done or hope to engage in such work. Post-conference, we will share information collected from participants about their research expertise and/or areas of research need and provide the means for attendees to connect.

Call for Proposals and Presenters

We are seeking examples of collaboration between academic researchers and practitioners/government entities/NGOs that have advanced or have the potential to advance access to justice in the South. We welcome submissions from academics from all disciplines, legal or legal-adjacent practitioners, and nonprofit or government entities.

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MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR – MAY 2021

These mountains that you are carrying,
you were only supposed to climb.

– Najwa Zebian, Lebanese-Canadian activist, author, speaker

Dear Law School Community Friends,

As we honor and mourn the year of living and working remotely, it has really dawned on me the load we are all carrying.  I will make the big leap and assume that everyone who is getting this newsletter is part of the AALS Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section because they care about students, their communities, and the legal profession.  I know more than a few of you have gone beyond the climb and have taken on the burdens of your students, your communities, and the profession to try and ease someone else’s burden and to meet an unmet need.  When I heard Najwa Zabian’s quote a few months into the remote world, I could not let it go – and to say it has supported, strengthened, and comforted me would be an understatement.  Many days over the last year, I have wanted to curl up in a ball, watch another television series, or go out for a long walk with a dog friend, but I have stayed in front of my computer for a student, a supervisor, a meeting, knowing that I was not alone and only by supporting each other would we be able to take get through this time.  We have so, so much work to do in meeting unmet legal needs, in beginning and continuing to raise the issues of racial injustice and the need for racial reckoning, and the critical need for having an earth that we can all live on – from climate change and the worsening of the ‘natural’ (National Geographic, that hotbed of radical theory, recently noted we needed to stop calling these natural disasters and recognize the role that man (sic) has played in these ‘man-made’ disasters. 

For this message, I wanted to call out 3 new endeavors our section is carrying on:

  1. Thank you to the Collaboration Committee which held its 2nd AALS National Law School Pro Bono Call – we had a zoom room full of people sharing ideas and energy – our next one is scheduled for Tuesday, March 30, 11am/pst – thank you Anna Davis (UC Irvine) and Laura Worstek (DePaul)!
  2. Thank you to the Educational Enrichment Committee which held its 1st Inaugural Speaker Series with Alissa Rubin Gomez, from University of Houston, talking about her forthcoming article – Demand-Side Justice:  Legal Literacy to Close the Gap – we had over 30 people on the call, including a large handful of legal services practitioners – so great to have all listening and contributing to the conversation.  Thank you to Kelli Neptune (Howard) and Eliza Vorenberg (Roger Williams Univ.)!
  3. Thank you to the Membership Committee who are bringing up a resource to welcome new folks to our Section and provide them with some leads on resources, including people to help – thank you Pam Robinson (Univ. of So. Carolina) and Shawna Smith-Thornton (Texas A & M)

Wherever you sit, wherever you are, know you are not alone, know you have colleagues, allies, co-conspirators, and friends all across the country and world who are carrying this load with you….and please, please reach out – we are stronger, and we will have more fun doing this together!

– Sue Schechter