ACCESS TO JUSTICE AWARD
The AALS Pro Bono & Access to Justice Section’s Access to Justice Award honors those who manage Pro Bono Programs and who have removed barriers to justice and/or improved legal services to individuals unable to pay for such services. This year the award will be presented to Becki T. Kondkar, Director of the Tulane Law School Domestic Violence Clinic and Co-Director of the Tulane Law Women’s Prison Project. Professor Kondkar displays an unmatched commitment to advancing access to justice, removing barriers, and championing the rights of survivors of intimate partner violence. The transformative impact of her work reaches far beyond her clients and her students – it serves as an inspiration and model for individuals across the nation. As Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic, Professor Kondkar has pioneered an innovative model for holistic client advocacy that allows students to explore issues of gender based violence across a variety of legal forums and substantive areas of law, while also examining institutional and structural barriers to survivor safety and justice. Prof. Kondkar’s vision that was the catalyst for the founding of the Tulane Women’s Prison Project. During the program’s first three years of operation, it has secured freedom for ten women serving or facing life sentences for killing abusive partners in self-defense.
EMERGING LEADER AWARD
The AALS Pro Bono & Access to Justice Section Emerging Leader Award honors early‐to‐mid career staff or faculty who have made an outstanding contribution to pro bono and public service in the law school setting. This year the award will be presented to Darcy Mclean, Former Director of Public Interest Programs & Deputy Director, Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State University College of Law. Darcy created the Center’s award-winning Pro Bono Program, which provides law students with a wide range of opportunities to engage in legal volunteer work with local and national organizations. Since 2017, students in the program have contributed more than 6000 hours of volunteer service across a range of substantive areas with more than a dozen legal services partners. The program has won three awards—the GSU Carl V. Patton President’s Award for Community Service and Social Justice, the Atlanta Legal Aid Pro Bono Rookie of the Year Award, and the State Bar of Georgia’s Law School Excellence in Access to Justice Award—and earned the College of Law a national reputation for pro bono education. Darcy also served as the faculty supervisor of the Center’s Alternative Spring Break program, which provides GSU law students with an opportunity to spend a week immersed in a substantive area of law, while also engaging in pro bono legal service. Since 2017, more than 140 students have gone on alternative spring break trips throughout the Southeast, spending the week doing a deep dive into a substantive area of law and performing related pro bono service. Darcy recently joined Alston & Bird as Senior Pro Bono & Community Engagement Manager.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The AALS Pro Bono & Access to Justice Section Lifetime Achievement Award honors those who have significantly advanced pro bono and public service in the law school setting over the course of their career. This year the award will be presented to Catherine Greene Burnett, Vice President, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning, Professor of Law, and Director of the Pro Bono Honors Program at South Texas College of Law Houston. Thirty-three years ago, Professor Catherine Greene Burnett drew together students, law professors, and a handful of staff attorneys — in a small, converted gas station filled with borrowed, mismatched furniture — because she saw a need and believed law students could play a role in filling it. She created South Texas College of Law Houston’s first clinic in August 1990, offering free legal services to the Greater Houston community. From the beginning, her vision combined two important elements: law students who wanted practice-ready legal skills and individuals in the community who needed representation but could not afford attorneys. While Dean Burnett’s work at the law school alone would merit this award, the impact of what she started in that small gas station down the street from the law school has spread across Greater Houston, across the State of Texas, and across the nation. The clinics have served more than 13,000 families in the past 33 years. While Dean Burnett has published numerous articles, book chapters, etc., about criminal law and other topics relevant to her doctrinal teaching field, she and UT Law Associate Dean Eden Harrington published a seminal article in 2010 about ways law schools could work together to increase access to justice, particularly in rural areas, (Burnett & Harrington, Laws Schools Working Together to Increase Access to Justice, 51 S. Tex. L. Rev. 680 (2010)). The Pro Bono Honor Roll acknowledges and highlights the pro bono work of individuals engaging in, expanding, and/or supporting their law school community in providing pro bono legal services. Each law school may select up to three people to be included in the Pro Bono Honor Roll each year: one staff member, one faculty member, and one student. This year we had a record number of schools participate in the PBHR.