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Book Review: Finding the Mother Tree:  Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

By Sue Schechter, Past Chair of AALS PB/ATJ Section

Cover of Suzanne Simard's Book, 'Finding the Mother Tree, Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest'

Suzanne Simard is a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia.  I bet that makes you want to read more, right?  Seriously, this past year I decided I needed some hope and inspiration to keep going, so I started with The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and Douglas Adams and moved to The Book of Hope:  A Survival Guide in Trying Times by Jane Goodall and Douglas Adams.  Figuring you have all heard of and read or decided not to read The Book of Joy and if not, then The Book of Hope might not have resonated, I found my way to Finding the Mother Tree – a book Goodall and Adams reference in their book. In a moment of not finding much hope in where humans are taking our planet, I decided to see if I could find hope someplace else…and lo and behold, Suzanne Simard’s book presented itself. 

It is a compelling and fascinating read as she talks about her path to realizing how interconnected and important trees are to each other and to the world.  For me, three things are true – I will never look at a tree the same way again, I will do more to acknowledge and embrace the importance of the natural world, and I will stop believing humans are the only species who know everything and can fix/change everything.  If you need some joy, some hope, and are up for learning some forest ecology, I strongly recommend this book.  In addition, years back, it appears scientists did not take her ideas/theories seriously and now she is gaining more momentum and respect for her important work in trying to get us all to wake up and smell the roses, oops, I mean trees!

Confession – I am still working my way through the book.  Reading articles about Professional Identity as I prepare to teach has taken over my life.

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AALS Conference Invitation

Please mark your calendar for our section’s AALS conference session, Thursday, January 5th at 3 pm, entitled: Incorporating Access to Justice & Pro Bono Across the Law School Curriculum.

Critical to the professional development of future lawyers are instilling an ethic of service and understanding how the growing justice gap impacts legal services. Access to justice and pro bono service can be an effective lens through which to explore any law school subject, and yet most law professors do not include them in their syllabi. This session features faculty whose courses provide students with insight into how lower-income people navigate the legal system and the ways in which that may differ from what we learn in casebooks. Attendees will leave with practical and replicable tools to integrate access to justice and pro bono service into the classroom across the law school curriculum.

Panelists include Stacy Butler, Director of the Innovation for Justice Program, at the University of Arizona School of Law; Jim Sandman, President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation and Distinguished Lecturer and Senior Consultant to the Future of the Profession Initiative at Penn Law; Lauren Sudeall, Faculty Director of the Center for Access to Justice at GSU Law; and Julia I. Vázquez, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Community Lawyering Clinic and the Public Interest concentration at Southwestern Law School. Darcy Meals, Director of Public Interest Programs and Deputy Director of the Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State University College of Law, will moderate the session. Many thanks to the sections on Debtor and Credit’s Rights, Clinical Law, and Leadership for co-sponsoring this panel.

We hope you’ll join us to gather and share ideas!

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KEY DATES

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MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR – APRIL 2022

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

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Section of the Year Award 2022

Our Section was awarded the “Section of the Year Award” by the AALS for 2022!

Read the acceptance speech that Sue Schechter, Immediate-Past Chair, delivered when receiving the award:

On behalf of the AALS Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities Section, we are honored to accept this award.  We are grateful to the group that selected our section, and congratulate our friends in the Property Law Section, who also won the Award this year.  We accept this Award on behalf of all our members working away at their law schools to move forward on what we all strive for – equal justice for all.

In these scary and trying times, our work instilling and training law students to care about access to justice is even more important.  This year, I had the honor to work with a great group of Section leaders and members and feel like I should be giving you an award for letting me build deeper relationships with these professionals I now call friends and allies.  I want to shout out a few examples of the work these folks are doing:

Angela Schultz, from Marquette, our incoming Chair, organized a remote pro bono programming for last summer – and had 44 students from eight different law schools participating in the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics.

Anna Davis, from UC Irvine, organized a handful of law school collaboration calls where we had 20 or more law school pro bono professionals sharing ideas, stories and resources.

Kelli Neptune from Howard along with Eliza Vorenberg from Roger Williams organized several Educational Enrichment Opportunities where we heard from leading ATJ scholars about their work to keep us inspired and seeing the big picture.

Stephen ​Rispoli from Baylor in partnership with Margaret Hagan in Stanford Law’s Legal Design Lab, has been working​ with​ the ABA’s Free Legal Answers ​(a great project schools can tap into) ​data to determine the most frequently asked questions.  ​Eliza Vorenberg found some RWU students to volunteer on the project and assist with the collection of data and drafting of responses. The Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) that the group creates are then shared with Free Legal Answers administrators around the country to be used as auto-replies when a user submits a question to the project website while awaiting a personalized response from an attorney.

And last but by no means least, Kiva Zytnick​ from Catholic, Columbus School of Law ​- redoing our bylaws and reengineering our Awards with Tonya Jupiter from Tulane to make us more nimble, responsive and inclusive in our internal work.

And we are starting to build our relationship with the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, an important group that law schools should be at the table with.  We are the funnel to the legal profession, and as we all know, if we do not instill and inspire our students to do pro bono work, there is not much hope once they leave our buildings – in person, or virtually.

Thank you again for recognizing our work, and we so appreciate the plaque we received.  We look forward to working with Dean Chemerinsky and all in AALS to promote more ways and resources to support pro bono work across the organization and at our institutions.  

Please reach out to us if your Section wants to think about how it can get involved in pro bono activities – our own, your own, and someone else’s…the need is there, the need is dire, and we can all play a part.  

Thank you and sending you all wishes for safety, well-being and more – onward,

Sue Schechter, accepting the Award on behalf of our Section

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Education Enrichment Committee Program – April 7

On Thursday, April 7, from noon to 1:00 EST, the AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities will host our Section Chair Angela Schultz, Assistant Dean for Public Service at Marquette Law School. 

The topic will be “Lost in the Law,” an experiential learning activity developed by Marquette Law School and the Milwaukee Justice Center. “Lost in the Law” is intended for lawyers, law students, legislators, and other members of the community who are concerned about, interact with, or create policies affecting low-income people facing civil legal problems.

Experience the activity during this session and consider its potential usefulness in your own work. 

Topic: “Lost in the Law” Educational Enrichment Session hosted by AALS Section on Pro Bono & Public Service
Time: Apr 7, 2022, 11:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://law-marquette-edu.zoom.us/j/85005270367

Please publicize widely!

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Book Review- How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin, Shaped a Nation, by Anna Malaika Tubbs

By Sue Schechter, Berkeley Law

Anna Malaika Tubbs recently wrote a wonderful and insightful non-fiction book about MLK, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin’s mothers.  She did a great amount of research (digging up documents, interviewing people, and more) giving readers a well-developed sense of the context these mothers and their sons were living in.  She acknowledges several times all the information we do not have but aims to make educated guesses about these women, their roles, and their lives.

We know their sons were all great leaders and we learn they all had especially close relationships with their mothers.  The book begins with Ms. Tubbs telling her own story and how she came to write the book – she mentions she was pregnant while she was writing it, and I believe that adds a lovely and strong connection to the role of mothers.  Rather than devote specific chapters to specific mothers, she chooses a theme including: men, marriages, children, loving and losing our sons, etc. and intertwines the topic with each mother and each son.  While I found it a little confusing when I first started reading the book, I came to appreciate the strength of acknowledging this collective idea of motherhood and how each mother brought different strengths to their mothering and their unfaltering and constant support of their sons. 

At the end of the book, she says, “It is time for the honor many quietly pay to Black mothers to become as loud as Alberta’s choir, as consistent as Berdis’s love, as strong as Louise’s fight.”  (Page 219/paperback).  This incredibly apt sentence wraps up the theme of this book, acknowledges the strength and importance of Black mothering, and carries forth the critical role these mothers played in growing and supporting these incredible leaders.

I highly recommend this book to all!