Thursday, October 28, 2021
By Giovanna Deo

The Pro Bono Society recently announced its Spring 2021 Members, with 56 current and recently graduated students making the list. The Pro Bono Society is an honor society that recognizes Iowa Law students who have dedicated their time towards serving others and developing skills and values that are important to a life of public service.

Membership, which is earned on a semester basis, emphasizes the importance of public service and volunteerism, while also serving as a vehicle assist law students seeking to earn the Boyd Service Award, which recognizes service over a student’s career. Last May, 20 graduating students were recognized with Boyd Service Honors. Collectively, the Class of 2021completed 4,475 hours during their time at Iowa Law through various form of service. These requirements were relaxed the past three semester in light of the ongoing pandemic. 

The Pro Bono Society was established by the Iowa Student Bar Association and is administered by the Citizen Lawyer Program at Iowa Law. It honors students who have reported at 15 hours of service, with at least 7.5 being Community hours, and have attended at least one Lawyers and Leaders program organized by the Citizen Lawyer Program in a previous semester.   

Carly Gosch one of the Spring 2021 Pro Bono Society members, completed 30 hours of training during her first year of law school to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

“As a CASA volunteer, I am appointed by a judge to represent a child victim in a case of abuse or neglect,” stated Gosch, “After being appointed to a case, I correspond with the child victim, the child's family, the child's caretaker, attorneys, and social workers to create time-sensitive court reports detailing case progression and recommendations in the best interests of children.” She sees pro bono work as an “opportunity to give back to [her] community and learn from new perspectives different than [her] own.”

Another one of the society’s members, Amber Crow, participated in one of Iowa Law’s Pro Bono Projects. These structured, law-related volunteer positions are managed by the Citizen Lawyer Program.

She talked about her own work saying, “Last spring, I spent around 50 hours volunteering with the State Public Defender’s Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I’ve seen folks I care about feel like second-class citizens, helpless, and hopeless when they become entangled in the criminal legal system.” She felt like “giving back to indigent defendants in [her] community was an incredible experience” that allowed her to “genuinely feel the difference [she] was directly making for folks.”

“Having the opportunity to get out of the classroom and connect with actual clients and attorneys was an invaluable experience during my first year of law school. Public defense has truly opened my eyes and my heart to the many injustices happening not only across this country, but in my local community,” continued Crow, “I often feel that when we dehumanize people when we read and learn about the law. We tend to forget or neglect these are actual people at the heart of all of it. I’m grateful for my pro bono experience for many reasons, but especially for the opportunity to connect with real people.”

The Citizen Lawyer Program, which provides administrative support for the Pro Bono Society and Boyd Service Award, offers opportunities for pro bono work, community service, and programs on legal issues, skills, and values. The program is directed by Dr. Brian Farrell, associate professor of instruction at Iowa Law.

“One unique aspect of the Citizen Lawyer Program is that it is a standalone program meant to engage all students, not only those who plan to pursue a public interest career. This reflects our view that pro bono service and community leadership are important for all law students and lawyers, not just a particular group,” stated Farrell.

He continued on saying that, “Our pro bono projects allow students – as early as their first month of law school – to volunteer with government and nonprofit legal services entities. In doing so, they can see how the law impacts real lives and, hopefully, to begin a lifelong commitment to ensuring access to justice for everyone. Along the way, students gain exposure to a variety of practice areas, learn the contours of the system, develop critical skills, and build a professional network.”