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Maurer law honors pro bono efforts

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Three law students received the Access to Justice Program’s Pro Bono Award for performing the most pro bono in each of their respective classes.

The awards were presented to Alex Haugh, J.D. ’10, third-year student Gina Venturelli, and second-year student Rachael Steller during a ceremony at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington Sept. 8.

The Access to Justice Program started in March 2009 to set an aspirational goal for students to complete at least 60 hours of pro bono service over the course of their three years in law school. The school uses the ABA definition of pro bono, and students do not receive payment or class credit for their time. The awards ceremony recognized the completion of the first full academic year of the Access to Justice Program.

After the ceremony, students were able to learn more and sign up for various pro bono opportunities, including the District 10 Pro Bono Project, Inmate Legal Assistance Project, Tenant Assistance Project, Public Interest Law Foundation, and Shalom Center HELP Legal Clinic.

Each of the award winners performed a different type of pro bono service.

Haugh volunteered at the Shalom Community Center HELP Legal Clinic and spearheaded the creation of the Shalom Benefits Clinic to provide 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 she taught literacy, verbal, and logic skills to fifth graders. She is 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 the student director of the law school’s Protective Order Project, which helps local victims of domestic abuse.

“We are extremely proud of our students for their extraordinary commitment to providing service to the local community,” Seth Lahn said in a statement. “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.”

Lahn and clinical professor Carwina Weng co-direct the Access to Justice Program.•

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