BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s State Bar Association recently gave its 2016 Law Student Pro Bono Award to a Louisiana State University Law School student just as the American Bar Association (ABA) said that law school pro bono work “is sweeping the nation.”
“I am incredibly honored to receive this award and to put a spotlight on all of the amazing ways that (LSU Law) champions pro bono work for our students," Lauren Bradberry, of Gonzales, said as she accepted the award at a Louisiana Supreme Court ceremony in New Orleans.
The ABA said exactly a week later that “law school pro bono and public service is sweeping the nation. A majority of ABA accredited law schools now have formal pro bono or public service programs with several requiring students to perform varying amounts of pro bono work in order to graduate.”
Bradberry, who graduated magna cum laude and was an editor of the LSU Law School Review, completed more than 50 hours of pro bono service and was this year’s president of the LSU Public Interest Law Society (PILS).
LSU law professor John Devlin nominated her for the award largely because of her effort with PILS, which was divided between pro bono work and community service.
The pro bono work included teaching high school juniors and seniors in poor neighborhoods their basic legal rights, like what happens if you sign a legal contract, what you can do if an employer doesn’t pay you and what you can do if you are arrested. It is called the Street Law Program, which many law schools offer.
Bradberry also volunteered with the Family Court Pro Se Helpdesk through the Baton Rouge Bar Association.
“I also participated in the Civil Law Mediation Clinic, lending 150 hours to pro se mediations and training at the Baton Rouge City Court," Bradberry told the Louisiana Record.
Her community service included planning LSU's 12-hour fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in 2015, and volunteering at a food bank, the Bishop Ott Shelter, the Connections For Life, Habitat For Humanity, and the spring and fall Days of Service at the LSU Law Center.
“We tend to do a fair bit of recruiting to try and get students involved in projects,” Devlin told the Louisiana Record.
He said these events show that public interest careers are “an alternative that might be more satisfying in the long run” than the more traditional high-salaried law firm positions.
Devlin said, one of the things that Bradberry and another student initiated was a week-long program, “where every night there were presentations about aspects of public interest” work.
“...Calling it public interest week has really helped us to get people excited, and that was very much Lauren’s doing," he said.
Bradberry was already leaning toward public interest work as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech University, where she received degrees in aerospace and ocean engineering with a minor in green engineering.
“She came in here with enormous energy," Devlin said.
Law school, however, “was a very spur-of-the-moment decision,” she said. “I was sitting at the kitchen table and turned to my mom and said ‘I think I'll apply to law school,’ which would be a good mix of my engineering background and a law degree."
She now has a job waiting for her as an associate with Kean Miller of Baton Rouge in its Environmental Regulatory group.
Next year, Devlin expects some expansion of PILS. It will build on Bradberry’s leadership.
“Lauren was a spectacularly good leader,” he said, explaining that was why he nominated her for the award.
The success of PILS, he said, “depends on the quality of the student leadership.”
Sara Richard, Bradberry’s successor as PILS president, sang her praises as well.
“Lauren has been a wonderful role model," she told the Louisiana Record. "In an effort to increase our student participation and community involvement, one of my main goals is to create ties with pro bono organizations in outlying cities.”
Many of the commuting law students “would be willing to participate in and benefit from programs in these areas," Richard said
PILS at LSU is unusual. It has a president and six other officers who run the programs. All seven are students.
“Most law schools usually run PILS with a paid staff out of the dean’s office," Devlin said. "There are relatively few (law) schools that do all of the different things that we do.”