She is one of only two MA law students to receive the Adams Pro Bono Publico Award during the National Celebration of Pro Bono
Raven Francomano, JD ’22, who provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal services to indigent artists and small nonprofit arts organizations while in law school, is being honored by the MA Supreme Judicial Court.
She is one of just two law students and two attorneys in Massachusetts who will receive the annual Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards, named in honor of former U.S. presidents, father and son, and early leaders of the Commonwealth, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. The awards, selected by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services, will be presented by Associate Justice Elspeth Cypher on Wednesday, October 26 in recognition of “exceptional dedication to providing volunteer services for persons who cannot afford an attorney for their essential legal needs.”
The American Bar Association has proclaimed a National Celebration of Pro Bono during the week of October 23-29. MA Governor Charlie Baker has officially proclaimed October as Pro Bono Month, and the awards ceremony is one of many activities celebrating and building support for pro bono legal work in the Commonwealth.
Francomano, now an associate attorney at Jeffrey Leavell, SC in Greater Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will attend the awards ceremony at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston.
Lawyers and law students have a responsibility to help close the gap in legal services
At her UMass Law graduation, Francomano was honored with the Pro Bono Award for 768 hours of pro bono legal services she provided through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. In total, she has accumulated 840 pro bono legal hours. UMass Law requires all students to complete at least 30 hours of pro bono service in order to graduate.
“I am elated to be recognized by the Commonwealth’s most distinguished court and am incredibly thankful that the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services has chosen to honor the mission of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts in this way. I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to the University of Massachusetts School of Law for fostering a learning community that truly embraces the pro bono culture and the importance of giving back to our communities,” Francomano said.
Although used primarily in the legal profession, the term pro bono is short for the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means "for the public good." The term generally refers to services that are rendered by a professional for free.
According to Francomano, the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound and devastating impact on American arts and multicultural organizations across all creative disciplines, leaving vulnerable populations of artists unable to afford the cost of skilled legal representation. “Because the right to an attorney does not extend to civil matters, artists of limited means are left to navigate our complex legal system without guidance or representation and risk losing substantial rights against sophisticated adversaries,” she said.
Francomano argues that the need for civil legal aid does not apply only to artists and encourages law students and attorneys to consider volunteering with many legal aid centers providing services to the Commonwealth. “Law students and attorneys have the responsibility to protect and advance the rights of disenfranchised individuals in our communities in efforts to close the gap between civil legal needs and civil legal services,” she said.
Raised by a single mother with her two siblings in a rural farming community in the heart of the Arkansas Delta, Francomano says her personal background plays a large role in her passion for pro bono legal services. “I fully understand the effects of cyclical poverty and how a lack of finances can create insurmountable barriers to some of our most fundamental needs or advancement opportunities,” she said. “I’ve always loved volunteering in my communities; I see being an attorney as another way by which I can invest back in to the communities that have given so much to me over the years. I fully intend to continue donating my time and services as much as possible for the rest of my legal career.”
Author’s note: While at UMass Law, Raven Francomano, JD '22 served as president of the Larkin Senate chapter of the national law fraternity, Delta Theta Phi, which won a record number of national awards, including Most Outstanding Student Senate, Most Outstanding Professor, and Most Outstanding Alumnus. Francomano was named Most Outstanding Student. Read more.