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Celebrating Miami Law's Commitment to Pro Bono Service

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When it comes to pro bono work, Miami Law has a lot to celebrate.

The American Bar Association recently presented the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center with the 2011 National Achievement Award in Public Interest. HOPE was honored by the ABA's Law School Division for its contributions to underrepresented groups and public interest causes, both within and outside the law school.

Now, the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center has partnered up with the Office of Financial Aid, the Center for Ethics and Public Service, and the Career Development Office to celebrate the ABA's National Pro Bono Week, a coordinated effort to show the importance and impact of pro bono service.

From Oct. 24 to Oct. 30, lawyers and law students across the country will coordinate to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services for low-income clients in civil legal matters.

"Our goal is to raise awareness about and celebrate the pro bono work that is being done by our students and members of the bench and bar in the community," says Daniela Gordon, the program manager for HOPE "We'll be covering what pro bono needs and opportunities are out there and how it is possible for students to engage in pro bono efforts, no matter what path they choose. These events span the spectrum of the legal community – students, faculty, attorneys in both private and public practice, and members of the bench."

Miami Law's celebration of Pro Bono Week kicks off on Oct. 24 with a presentation on public service loan forgiveness by student-loan guru Heather Jarvis, a former public-interest lawyer and current Equal Justice Works loan expert. Jarvis travels the country giving presentations on navigating post-graduate life with a public-interest law degree and the sometimes staggering amount of student debt that comes with it.

Jarvis's lunchtime event will be specifically for Miami Law students, but she will repeat the presentation four more times throughout Pro Bono Week. Those audiences will comprise students from other law schools in the area; Miami Law's Student Affairs, CDO, and Litigation Skills offices; faculty and clinical staff, CEPS, and StreetLaw directors; and Miami Law alumni and community partners.

"CEPS's goal is to educate law students to serve their communities as citizen lawyers," says Jan L. Jacobowitz, director of the Center for Ethics and Public Service's Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program. "Pro bono work is an essential component of assuring that access to legal assistance is available to the most needy among us."

On Oct. 25, the pioneering non-profit group LegalArt will host a free legal clinic during the evening at the law offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius for artists and arts organizations. The clinic is designed to "empower South Florida artists by providing them with the support and guidance they need to excel in their artistic endeavors," LegalArt's website says. Artists must register online in advance as LegalArt members in order to participate in the clinic.

A lunchtime pro bono panel discussion titled "Celebrating Pro Bono and Public Interest Law: Benefitting the Community, Enhancing Your Career" will be held on Oct. 26. Featured panelists are: Porpoise Evans, a Greenberg & Traurig shareholder who counsels public and private companies in commercial disputes; Judge Vance E. Salter from the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal; Angela Vigil, the director of Baker & McKenzie's Pro Bono and Community Service for North America; and Jeffrey Hearne, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami and director of Miami Law's Tenants' Rights Clinic.

The week will culminate with the 13th Annual HOPE Auction and reception, held at the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum. The auction is a critical source of funding for the HOPE Fellows program, as well as for many other programs and scholarships that enable law students to promote access to justice.

The online auction began on Oct. 3 and will run until Oct. 23. To view auction items – which include everything from exotic vacation getaways to custom-framed and hand-signed Romero Britto paintings – visit HOPE's online bidding website.

During the auction, HOPE will also present attorney H.T. Smith with the first-ever Distinguished Leader in Public Service Award. Smith was Miami-Dade County's first African-American assistant public defender and later, Miami-Dade County's first African-American assistant county attorney. Smith was also the founding president of the Black Lawyers Association of Miami, now known as the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association.

For more information on Miami Law's celebration of National Pro Bono Week, visit www.law.miami.edu/hope/probonoweek, and for the National Pro Bono Celebration, go to www.probono.net/celebrateprobono.