Dear AALS, Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section Friends,
We want something so much bigger.
Sometimes I wonder if one key to professional fulfillment is to be engaged in a mission that involves working yourself out of a job. I love my work. And I love my job.
And yet I hope for a world where there is no need for its existence.
For the first ten years of my career, I worked as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Over those ten years, my work included night shifts at a homeless shelter, answering the 24-hour crisis hotline, leading a support group, training and coordinating volunteers, preparing grant reports, supervising advocates as they worked alongside survivors navigating courts and child welfare systems, leading community education sessions intended to raise awareness about domestic violence dynamics, and supporting survivors. The goal of this work: end intimate partner violence and oppression in all forms. In other words, work ourselves out of a job.
My current role focuses on engaging law students and lawyers in pro bono work. We host the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics, where upwards of 4,000 clients are served annually by a cadre of approximately 200 law students and 250 volunteer lawyers. We host these services in the county courthouse, at local social service agencies, at the veterans’ service office, and on Zoom. We offer advice on family law, housing law, eviction records, estate planning, expungements, and pardons, and we advise nonprofits and small businesses.
We are busy. And we are fulfilled. And maybe that is because our ultimate goal is to be so successful that access to civil justice is a non-issue, and we have worked ourselves out of our jobs.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t love our jobs. I’m suggesting that seeking enormous change is where fulfillment is created. We get to play a small part in creating access to justice, even if it’s just a small part. We get to challenge the notion that paying for legal representation should be the status quo. We get to engage our students in these ideas and raise the hardest questions for them to tackle over the course of their careers: What should our legal system look like? How should it be designed? What does equal access to justice for all entail? How do we achieve it?
In 2022, our AALS Pro Bono & Public Service Opportunities section will keep at it. Let’s continue to create a space where we can come together as a community of changers. Let’s continue to be a group with whom to dream, commiserate, be creative, and push boundaries. Let’s innovate with an eye to making the need for pro bono service obsolete. How?
- Use our section listserv to easily reach colleagues working in the pro bono, public service, and public interest arenas.
- Read and contribute to this quarterly newsletter.
- Respond to pop-up surveys.
- Share a brag piece about your law students to inspire others.
- Tune in to the community engagement seminars and Zoom chat sessions we offer at various times throughout the year. (Details will be shared via the listserv.)
- Plan to attend the AALS 2023 conference.
- Nominate a talented colleague for one of our section awards.
Do you want to play a larger role in this section? Please reach out to me directly, and we will work together to find a place for your interests and talents.
With the challenges and complexities facing our communities, we will not have worked ourselves out of our jobs anytime soon. In the meantime, let’s continue to collaborate and celebrate our successes every chance we get.
Looking forward to a better 2022,
Angela F. Schultz
Assistant Dean for Public Service
Marquette Law School