From a pool of 2,400 nominations, Miami Law's Legal Corps has been selected as a human-rights finalist in the upcoming CLASSY Awards in San Diego, the largest philanthropic prize ceremony in the country.
Legal Corps, a unique post-graduate jobs program that was founded at the University of Miami School of Law in 2010, is one of the top five contenders for an award in CLASSY's category of Human Rights in the South. Supporters of the nominees are encouraged to vote online by July 26, and every vote helps toward a finalist's victory.
"The Classy Awards recognize the greatest charitable achievements worldwide," said Tamesha L. Keel, the director of Legal Corps. "Your vote for Miami Law Legal Corps provides an excellent opportunity to show your support for a program that has tremendously impacted our graduates' professional development, public service organizations, and the communities in which they serve."
Legal Corps places recent law graduates in public sector organizations nationwide and around the world. The program's activities are a response to economic conditions that have led to a decrease in funding for public sector agencies just as the demand for legal services has increased. At the law school's expense, Legal Corps fills staffing gaps at understaffed public agencies by providing them with prepared, newly minted attorneys.
Since the program's founding, there have been 148 Legal Corps fellows who have performed approximately 90,000 hours of legal service for almost 100 organizations. One hundred and four of those fellows have found permanent employment since participating in the program. Twenty-seven fellows are currently enrolled in the program, and five fellows are enrolled in post-JD studies, according to Keel.
The CLASSY Awards recognize charitable achievements by nonprofit organizations, socially conscious businesses and individuals, and will be given out on Sept. 22 at the San Diego Civic Theatre. The awards' website says they provide "a platform to celebrate and share the success stories of thousands of nonprofit organizations, raising awareness that materializes in increased donations, volunteer recruitment and support."
Legal Corps fellows, alums and supporters may vote by visiting www.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/vote. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on July 26. While members of the public cast their votes, a panel of past CLASSY Awards winners will judge and score each regional finalist based on impact, originality and appropriateness to its category. The regional winners in each category will be determined by a 50-50 combination of the public vote and the scores given by past winners. Regional winners will be announced on July 31. Each of the 64 regional winners who live outside Southern California will receive one free roundtrip flight to attend the CLASSY Awards weekend in San Diego.
To vote, follow these steps:
Legal Corps has provided rich experiences for its fellows. Robert Di Pano, who graduated from Miami Law in 2011, worked as a Legal fellow in the Economic Crimes Division of the Florida Office of the Attorney General. He said Legal Corps "just makes sense."
"Not only does the program instill in young attorneys a commitment to public service, but it also affords an opportunity for fellows to continue to develop their skills while working alongside talented legal minds at the host organizations," Di Pano said. "Nothing but a positive and fulfilling experience for all involved."
Falon Rainey, JD '11, obtained a fellowship in Falls Church, Va., with Just Neighbors, whose mission is to provide legal help to low-income immigrants and refugees. "The Legal Corps fellowship enabled me to gain valuable experience working on a wide variety of immigration cases," Rainey said. "I had the opportunity to help people from diverse backgrounds that have suffered trauma and speak very limited English. I worked primarily with asylees, refugees, victims of violent crimes, and domestic violence victims. I love working with immigration clients and learning about different cultures. It is so rewarding to help clients navigate the immigration legal system and inform them of immigration benefits for which they are eligible to apply."
Another 2011 graduate, Chad Bubis, was placed with Dade Legal Aid, a non-profit law firm in practice for more than 60 years, that provides free legal services to low-income residents of Miami-Dade County. "Through that program, I was able to help countless Miami-Dade citizens keep their homes and fight foreclosures," he said. "Not only was it a great experience for me, it was a great benefit to the local community."