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Ken Turchi
IU Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Law students, alum honored for pro bono service

Maurer students perform more than 14,000 hours of volunteer legal work in 2009-2010

Sept. 8, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Maurer School of Law today (Sept. 8) honored two current students and a recent alumnus for their commitment and dedication to pro bono work.

Alex Haugh, JD'10, third-year student Gina Venturelli and second-year student Rachael Steller were all presented with the Access to Justice Program's Pro Bono Award during a ceremony at the Law School. The award is presented to the student from each class who performed the most pro bono work during the course of the year.

In 2009, the law school created the Access to Justice Program to set an aspirational goal for students to complete 60 hours' worth of pro bono work during their three years in the law program. This year's awards ceremony marks the recognition of the completion of the first full year of the Access to Justice Program and the Law School's aspirational goal.

Three winners of the Law School's Pro Bono Award stand with Dean Lauren Robel

Gina Venturelli, Jacob Atz, and Rachael Steller (from left) were honored with Pro Bono Awards on Sept. 8, 2010. Atz accepted the award on behalf of Alex Haugh, who graduated this spring. At right is IU Maurer School of Law Dean Lauren Robel.

Megan Mullett, a Pro Bono Fellow with the Access to Justice Program, said student participation was overwhelming.

"We are thrilled with the enthusiastic student response to the law school's voluntary pro bono goal," Mullett said. "This year alone, nearly 150 Maurer students reported over 14,000 hours of pro bono service. This year's honorees exemplify Maurer students' tremendous commitment to serving the Bloomington community and to access to justice for all."

The three award-winners performed a variety of pro bono service:

  • Haugh was one of four original volunteers at the Shalom Community Center HELP Legal Clinic. In 2009 Haugh spearheaded the creation of the Shalom Benefits Clinic with two other students. The clinic provides assistance to those seeking Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance benefits.
  • Venturelli began her pro bono service with Outreach for Legal Literacy, where law students teach literacy, verbal and logic skills to local fifth-graders. She is currently the president of the Family Law Society.
  • Steller performed the majority of her pro bono work at Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice in San Francisco, where she prepared civil rights complaints and other legal documents for low-income, minority communities disproportionately affected by environmental degradation. She is currently the student director of the law school's Protective Order Project, which helps local victims of domestic abuse.

Following the awards ceremony, students were able to explore local pro bono opportunities with community organizations like the District 10 Pro Bono Project, Inmate Legal Assistance Project, Tenant Assistance Project, Public Interest Law Foundation and Shalom Center HELP Legal Clinic. Representatives from each organization were on hand to answer questions and explain the many opportunities for pro bono work.

"We are extremely proud of our students for their extraordinary commitment to providing service to the local community," said Senior Lecturer in Law Seth Lahn, who, along with Clinical Professor Carwina Weng, co-directs the Access to Justice program. "Pro bono service gives students the opportunity to get hands-on experience while still in school, and allows them to see the true difference they make through their work. We hope the wonderful experiences students have with clients will lead to a lifetime commitment to serving those in need."

Both the awards ceremony and fair were made possible by generous support from Baker & Daniels, which has been instrumental in assisting the law school and its students with pro bono opportunities and funding for the pro bono fellowship program.

Earlier this year, three students were honored with the Terry and Judy Albright Pro Bono and Public Interest Award. Named in honor of Terry Albright, a retired partner at Baker & Daniels, the award is presented to graduating seniors who have made significant contributions through pro bono and public interest service while in school. The 2010 recipients were Eliot Anderson, Sarah E. Morris, and Judy Reckelhoff.