September 2012

The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) put on another great conference last month. Pro Bono Net’s Director of Product Management Adam Licht attended the 2012 ILTA Conference, held Aug. 26-30 in Washington, DC, thanks to Peggy Wechsler and ILTA’s generosity.

ILTA showcases new technology trends in its large vendor exhibition and in 200 peer-provided

“Libraries are everywhere … this is a partnership we should encourage.” – Glenn Rawdon, Program Counsel for Technology, Legal Services Corporation

This statement is one of the cornerstones of the Libraries and Access to Justice Webinar Series, a training series developed by Pro Bono Net that kicked off on September 13th.  More

On August 9, 2012, Pro Bono Net had the opportunity to attend the Annual Supreme Court Review: 2011 hosted by our corporate sponsor Practising Law Institute (PLI). This year’s review brought together a distinguished panel of PLI faculty that represented leading constitutional scholars, civil rights experts, a law school dean, and a Supreme Court journalist to analyze, discuss, and debate the leading Supreme Court decisions of the October 2011 Term. The program is available on-demand on PLI’s website

Now in its fourteenth year, this program is organized by Erwin Chemerinsky, Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and Martin Schwartz, Professor of Law at Touro Law Center. We spoke with Dean Chemerinsky about the program and his dedication to pro bono work.

The Annual Supreme Court Review has become one of the most popular of PLI’s programs.  This year, more than 350 people gathered at PLI’s New York City office and another 150 participated online. “The first year we had 60 people,” says Chemerinsky.  “But every year people come to the event, realize it is worthwhile, and tell others.” The idea for the program came out of a brainstorming session between Chemerinsky and Schwartz and resulted in an annual in-depth analysis of the Supreme Court’s decisions including their precedential, doctrinal and, where appropriate, societal and litigation significance.

Chemerinsky is inspired by the civil rights lawyers of the 1950s and 1960s and firmly believes that law is a tool for social change.  “I still believe the law can inspire social change, but social change seems more difficult to achieve [today]. You can see its influence in both litigation and legislation. I look at Brown [vs. Board of Education] to see what litigation can do,” says Chemerinsky.  He adds that understanding and reviewing the decisions of the Supreme Court is important to pro bono work as its decisions impact the outcome of much pro bono work.

Chemerinsky tries to instill in his students a drive to work for social change. Says Chemerinsky, “I try hard to communicate that as a lawyer they have the opportunity to change society and use law to make it better. That’s not a political stance. They [the students] have to determine their own view of society and work to make it better.  The opportunities they have to make a difference are part of their duty to their profession. I hope I lead by example. My students know I’ve been involved in pro bono litigation; I try to involve my students as researchers or conduct moot courts at the school. I hope, in that way, to lead by example.” Chemerinsky has regularly argued appellate cases, criminal and civil—virtually always pro bono—in the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeals and state supreme courts.

When asked to lead the School of Law at UCI, Chemerinksy sought to create the ideal law school. “I think a [21st century] law school has to put tremendous emphasis on experiential learning, teaching students to be lawyers,” says Chemerinsky. “Being the dean of a new law school I was given the opportunity to work with a blank slate, which is a great benefit.  We knew we needed to do it differently and better. We had great community support.”  UCI, the first new public law school in California in more than 40 years, opened its doors to its first class in August 2009.

Chemerinsky says that at UCI there is “tremendous emphasis on preparing students for the law.” He points to three specific ways the school is helping do this. First, UCI is one of the few law schools in the country that requires clinical experience of all its students. Students also must do intake interviews with legal aid or the public defender.  The required intakes are part of the first year Lawyering Skills course, and the requirement is separate from the required clinical course, which students are required to take during their 3rd year. “This gives students experience under close supervision,” says Chemerinsky. Secondly, the externship program offers students the skills they will need in the future. And thirdly, the school puts a strong emphasis on pro bono work.  “They [the students] do pro bono of all sorts. We do other things to promote public service including bridge funding, a loan forgiveness program, and a scholarship program for students doing public interest work.”

Pro bono work is strongly encouraged at UCI. “I encourage students to get appointed to pro se court of appeals to get an experience many lawyers don’t get. We all want to feel we’re doing something important. Here, they get the social benefit but also the career benefit,” says Chemerinsky.  As an example, Chemerinsky points to his own son’s recent experience arguing a pro bono immigration case. “Here he was, three years out of law school, at a day long immigration hearing.  The benefit of that is tremendous,” he says.
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