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.



After a terrific Section program at the AALS Annual Meeting in cloudy (☹) San Diego earlier this month, your new Section co-Chairs are reinvigorated and ready to dive into our Section work for the coming year. Below you will find some highlights of our Section’s Annual Meeting program and awards ceremony, as well as some important Section events and programs coming up in February that we hope you’ll plan to attend.
We are excited to start a new year and hope to inspire you, our Section members, to stay engaged with the Section and help us build and energize this wonderful community of law school pro bono professionals committed to instilling a pro bono ethic in our law students and increasing access to justice in whatever ways we can. Though our positions may sometimes be undervalued by our institutions, the work we do could not be more important.  As our wonderful 2022 Section Chair, Angela Schultz said in her final 2022 Section newsletter:

“Pro bono legal service is a key part of health, safety, and security for our communities. Evictions are avoided. Consumer debt is mitigated. Domestic violence may be prevented. Child support is paid. People find answers and sometimes find closure through pro bono service.”

And, speaking of Angela, we want to thank her for a terrific year of Section leadership.  Angela has been a tireless and inspiring leader who, among other accomplishments, established the AALS Pro Bono Honor Roll during her tenure and planned an excellent Annual Meeting program.  She did it all with her wonderful sense of humor.  Thank you so much, Angela!!!

And thank you to all of you for being a part of this Section. Please join us at our first meeting on February 23rd at 1pm ET.

Darcy Meals
Co-Chair, Section on Pro Bono & Access to Justice

Director of Public Interest Programs

Deputy Director of the Center for Access to Justice

Georgia State University
College of Law

Eliza Vorenberg
Co-Chair, Section on Pro Bono & Access to Justice

Clinical Professor of Law

Director of Pro Bono &
Community Partnerships

Roger Williams University
School of Law


Welcome to our new Section Leaders

We cannot express sufficient gratitude to our outgoing Chair, Angela Schultz, for all she did to guide us over the course of the last year. Under her leadership, we changed our Section name, launched the Pro Bono Honor Roll, and continued to connect with Section members all over the country. We are thrilled to welcome our incoming Section leadership and can only hope to continue our dynamic Section’s inspiring work. Many thanks to those continuing their service to the Section and to those who have newly joined in a leadership role!


Co-ChairsDarcy Meals &
Eliza Vorenberg
Georgia State University College of Law;
Roger Williams University School of Law
Co-Chairs ElectDeborah Schlosberg &
Janine Dunlap-Kiah
Berkeley School of Law;
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
SecretaryAllison ConstanceUNC School of Law
Finance ChairStephen RispoliBaylor University School of Law
Immediate Past ChairAngela SchultzMarquette University Law School
Members at LargeJulia VázquezSouthwestern Law School
Michelle Takagishi-AlmeidaSouthwestern Law School
Meredith SchnugUniversity of Kansas School of Law
Sue SchechterBerkeley School of Law
Tonya JupiterTulane University School of Law

Annual Meeting Recap

It was great seeing many of you for our Section’s session, Incorporating Access to Justice & Pro Bono Across the Law School Curriculum. The session, moderated by incoming Co-Chair Darcy Meals, offered attendees an array of examples of how to expose students to the realities of the justice gap and the potential power they have to improve the ways in which our legal system might serve lower-income litigants. Jim Sandman, President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation and Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law, shared alarming statistics about the state of access to justice and set the stage for a conversation about the importance of making law students (and faculty) aware of the extent of the need in this country. Stacy Butler, Director of the Innovation for Justice Program at the University of Arizona School of Law, talked about the value of collaborative, multi-disciplinary approaches to making the legal system more user-friendly. Lauren Sudeall, Faculty Director of the Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State University College of Law, outlined her team-taught course, Access to Justice: Law Reform, which gives students a chance to design their own proposals using user-centric principles and best practices in legal design. Finally, Julia Vazquez, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Community Lawyering Clinic at Southwestern Law School, described a collaborative experiential course she taught in conjunction with community partners at both Southwestern and UCLA Law, utilizing technology to help students work with migrants seeking asylum at the border. In each of the courses the panelists described, students gain an understanding of the ways in which the legal system falls short of meeting the needs of lower-income litigants and how students might use their skills to better serve vulnerable populations. Attendees left the session better equipped to weave these important opportunities and principles into their doctrinal classes through court observation, guest speakers, pro bono opportunities, and simulation exercises.

We were also thrilled to honor our three award recipients, each of whom stands out on their campuses and in the legal profession as a leader in promoting access to justice and pro bono service. Their work is inspiring and ongoing, and it was a pleasure to recognize them for all that they do. Congratulations to Russell, Stephen, and Deborah!

Lifetime Achievement Award


Professor of Law & Director of Clinical Programs
New England Law, Boston

Access to Justice Award


Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives,
Director of Innovation and Scholarship
Baylor University School of Law

Emerging Leader Award


Director of Pro Bono Programs
University of California, Berkeley School of Law


Save the Date and Join Us at Our Upcoming Education Enrichment Program

Maximizing Law Student and Organization Benefits
During Experiential Learning Placements

Presented by Leah Nicholls, Public Justice

February 28, 2023 12:00-1:00 pm EST

Meeting ID: 952 4869 9437

Our previous education enrichment session recordings and materials are now available online here >>