Message from the Chairs, August 2023

Scott Cummings recently wrote about the late great Deborah Rhode that she had an “unflagging and courageous commitment to placing social justice and reform at the center of her work” and that “she called on us all” to make pro bono “live up to its ideals” and “to connect it to other strategies for access to justice.” Cummings, Scott, AN ODE TO RHODE: IN PRINCIPLE AND IN PRACTICE, 91 Fordham L. Rev. 1201, 1205 (March 2023)

Rhode’s perspective feels especially on point now as we all approach this next school year.  How can we fulfill Rhode’s call as we plan our pro bono programming? With more and more low-income, disenfranchised people going without the legal help they desperately need and, as result, falling further into poverty, making pro bono “live up to its ideals” with the next generation of lawyers feels especially urgent.  Perhaps we can help our law students understand that they will be the keepers of the justice system and responsible for addressing the justice gap by broadening the lens through which they understand ABA Rule 6.1 to include a professional responsibility to attend to, and work to close, the justice gap, and to improve the quality of justice, not only through the provision of pro bono service but through impact and reform work.  Could we help them see the opportunity they will have as members of our profession to address the root causes of the justice gap and take on the work of finding effective solutions to this crisis?  This coming school year, we’d love to hear your thoughts on whether and how to talk to law students about this. Are you considering:

  • explaining the role of the lawyers’ monopoly on legal services in preventing those who most need our help from getting it, and pointing to the medical profession’s use of nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to increase access to medical care,[1]
  • discussing Civil Gideon and the possibility of a right to counsel in civil cases where basic human needs are at play,
  • making sure they know the history of our civil legal services program, and how funding and anti-poverty mechanisms were gutted in the 1970s, greatly undermining LSC-funded organizations’ capacity to engage in critically important reform work, and
  • challenging them to consider the quality of justice imparted on those with less means-both in civil and criminal cases

As we train our law students to be advocates for their clients, let’s think about and discuss how we can train them to be advocates for the justice system generally.

Thanks for reading our newsletter and letting us know if you’d like to join our conversations. We’re a welcoming group.

Darcy and Eliza

[1] Our very own Darcy Meals co-wrote a piece on this. Check it out here: https://illinoislawreview.org/online/a-prescription-for-increased-access-to-justice



Pro Bono Honor Roll

It’s time to yet again name one faculty member, one staff member, and one student per school for the second annual AALS Pro Bono Honor Roll, which celebrates the exceptional work of individuals engaging in, expanding, and/or supporting their law school community in providing pro bono legal services. We understand that there are so many deserving people who serve year in and year out without acknowledgement. The Pro Bono Honor Roll is an easy annual way for you to recognize them for their contributions and lift them up for making a difference in our law schools and communities. For purposes of this award, pro bono is defined as work that is primarily legal in nature, supervised by a licensed attorney (for law students), not for pay or academic credit, and of service to underserved individuals, groups, or those with barriers to access to justice.  We welcome new or former recipients from the 2022 Pro Bono Honor Roll. You may submit a faculty, student, and staff person from your law school by September 6th, 2023, using this form. Recipients will receive an electronic certificate, and their names will be publicized through the AALS electronic newsletter, website, and at the annual conference. If you have any questions about the Pro Bono Honor Roll, please reach out to section secretary Cate Carbonaro at [email protected].

Section Awards

We are also seeking nominations for outstanding colleagues worthy of special recognition through three awards sponsored by our section:

1) a Lifetime Achievement Award,

2) an Access to Justice Award, and

3) an Emerging Leader Award.

Please read more about our Section awards here. The deadline to submit nominees for these awards is September 15, 2023. Please spread the word and nominate a worthy colleague! 



Upcoming Education Enrichment

Join us to hear from Leah Goodridge, author of Professionalism as a Racial Construct, on October 26, 2023 at 1pm ET. Zoom link to join: https://rwu.zoom.us/j/94086528138

Upcoming Community Conversations 

In our next Community Conversation on November 16 at 1 pm ET, we hope to focus on how you see your Pro Bono Programs as a vehicle for addressing revised ABA standards 303(b) and (c) and the formation of professional identity.  If you have other topics you’d like to raise for a Community Conversation, please let us know! Zoom link to join: https://rwu.zoom.us/j/95644060720

Annual AALS Conference 

Conference Session: We hope to see many of you in attendance at our AALS conference session in Washington, DC, scheduled for Friday, January 5 from 2-3:40 pm, entitled Gideon – 60 Years Later, Still Seeking Access to Criminal and Civil Justice. Sixty years after the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainright affirmed a right to counsel in certain criminal cases, questions remain about the vitality of that right in practice in the criminal legal system. At the same time, there is a growing movement for a civil right to counsel, particularly in areas involving vital human needs, such as shelter and child custody. In this session, hosted by the Section on Pro Bono and Access to Justice, panelists will explore the state of the right to counsel in criminal cases, whether and how that right ought to be extended to certain civil contexts, and what role right to counsel plays or ought to play in the broader access to justice movement. Co-sponsored by the Sections on Poverty Law, Clinical Law, and Criminal Law.

Section Awards and Service Project: Please also consider joining us for our section awards ceremony Thursday, January 4 at noon, and for our service project Saturday, January 6 from 8am-11:40am, cosponsored by the Poverty Law section. Watch for more details when conference registration opens.



Facilitated by Michelle Takagishi-Almeida, Public Service Program Director at Southwestern Law, veterans and newcomers to the law school space were invited to gather on May 25th for an informative session sharing brief highlights and available materials on selected topics from the law school pre-conference at the 2023 Equal Justice Conference.

The Community Conversation was especially helpful to section members in reviewing program models, policies, approaches and new possibilities in preparation for fall returns as well as being able to exchange directly with others in attendance and with panel moderators making encore appearances on topics, such as: Law School Best Practices Refresher by Anna Strasburg Davis, Director of Externships and Pro Bono Programs, UC Irvine School of Law; Law School Pro Bono: Dispelling Myths and Finding Your Fit by Elizabeth R. Boe, Director, Pro Bono and Community Service Initiative, Assistant Director of Public Service Law, Law Career Services, DePaul University College of Law; and How to Measure and Assess Pro Bono and Use that to Elevate Pro Bono at Your School, by Grace Sung Ehn Meng, Director, Judge Rand Schrader Pro Bono Program, UCLA School of Law.

Available materials from May’s Community Conversation can be found at the AALS Pro Bono and Access to Justice Section website here.




Almost weekly, David A. Grenardo, Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions and Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, publishes a new blog post related to Professional Identity Formation, particularly as it connects with the new ABA standards 303(b) & (c). Some of the posts discuss pro bono explicitly while others are more generally relevant.  Check out the Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog here.