Outstanding student participation
Last month, UMass Law was recognized by the Equal Justice Coalition for their outstanding participation in the 2019 Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. The law school saw successful participation again this year for the 2020 Walk on January 30.
The Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is the annual lobby day for supporters of increased state appropriation for legal assistance organizations funded by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.
This year's Walk was co-captained by 3L Kseniya Ruzanova, 2Ls Alexandria Murphy and Nicholas LaFlamme, and 1L Kara Kocurek. Kseniya and Alexandria also served as co-captains last year.
"Deep commitment to the public interest"
Len Zandrow, executive director of Justice Bridge, addressed students during a breakfast hosted by the Boston Bar Association before the Walk.
“Your presence here demonstrates UMass Law’s continuing and deep commitment to the public interest,” he said, encouraging them to speak to their legislators with sincere compassion. “Don’t worry about remembering too many facts or statistics. Simply convey the message that you deeply care about this cause and the importance of helping others.”
Justice Bridge, an incubator to help new law graduates build their own practices in a cost-efficient manner, provides affordable legal representation to the communities surrounding the New Bedford and Boston offices.
Through the incubator, recent UMass Law graduates are able to establish their own practice by renting office space in either New Bedford or Boston at low rates. A committed group of experienced, highly regarded lawyers serve as mentors, and an established referral base of lawyers and agencies sends a steady stream of new clients to Justice Bridge attorneys.
Learning the impact of civil legal aid
Before breaking off to speak to their legislators, students heard from speakers from the Equal Justice Coalition, Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, and the Boston and Massachusetts Bar Associations. Chief Justice Ralph Gants also spoke, providing statistics on the civil legal aid cases over the past year.
"Participation in the annual Walk to the Hill is important to the professional development of our students," said Julie Cahill, assistant dean of students.
"Hearing from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, as well as a client whose life was impacted by legal services attorneys exposed them to the crucially important ways that lawyers impact individuals and communities."
Annual participation in the Walk to the Hill is only one way UMass Law students are exposed to how they can impact their community.
While UMass Law students are required to perform 30 hours of pro bono hours, the student average is approximately 150 hours. In total, students have delivered more than 150,000 hours of pro bono legal services since 2010.
Past recognitions UMass Law and students have received for their public service achievements include a Massachusetts Bar Association Public Service Award, the Massachusetts Bar Association Oliver Wendell Holmes Scholarship, a Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association Scholarship, and a SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce Education Leadership award.
Reasons to walk
The four captains reflected on the reasons why participating in the Walk to the Hill was important to them.
"I walk because everyone deserves quality legal representation regardless of income," said Alexandria.
Kseniya gave a similar reason, saying, "I walk so everyone has access to legal aid."
Kara said she walks for "those who need it most," while Nicholas said "fairness and opportunity" are why he participates.