UMass Law has done it again . . . and done it very well. In the law school’s seventh year of participating in Talk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid, UMass Law has received the Highest Participation for a Law School Award for the fourth time.
“UMass Law has demonstrated an enthusiastic and longstanding commitment to Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid,” said Lynne Parker, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. “Students have participated in the event for seven consecutive years, winning the highest participation award for the last four. That speaks volumes about the law school’s commitment to public interest and to our neighbors served by legal aid. We look forward to welcoming UMass Law students again this year and every year!”
Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid is an annual lobby day for increased funding for civil legal aid organizations through the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item. Last January, the event was virtual and renamed “Talk to the Hill.” Nearly 1,000 attorneys and law students participated in the virtual lobby day to ask legislators to increase the state appropriation for civil legal aid. The Commonwealth ultimately included the requested increase of $6 million, appropriating $35 million for civil legal aid in FY22. Legal representation is not guaranteed in civil matters as in criminal cases.
"Expanding access to justice is at the core of our identity as a law school, so it is heartening to see our students once again advocating for civil legal aid in such a profound and robust way," said UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick. "We do this because it is one thing to have just rules, but it is quite another for people in our communities to be able to access that justice, to be able to afford the legal representation necessary to pursue justice."
UMass Law participates in this year’s virtual event with state officials
This year’s captain, Madeline Paquette, JD candidate ’23, led the UMass Law team at the virtual event last week, when the award was presented.
“Attending this event is so important for UMass Law students because it allows all of us to get a glimpse of what pursuing justice really means,” said Paquette. “We are able to see those who are helped by this civil legal aid funding, and it really makes a lasting impression on all of us.”
The speaking program included U.S. Representative Katherine Clark, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Clients shared how civil legal aid helped them overcome challenging circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers, advocates, and law students had the opportunity to speak with their legislators to lobby for $41 million in civil legal aid funding in FY23.
Paquette is hopeful that the event will return to an in-person format next year. “During the Zoom breakout sessions, attorneys spoke very highly of UMass Law and how they loved seeing our students arriving by the busload when we were in person,” she said.
The 2021 award winners are:
UMass Law, winner of the Highest Participation for a Law School Award
Morgan Lewis, winner of the Highest Participation Award
WilmerHale, winner of the Exceptional Support Award
Meehan Boyle, winner of the Nancy King Award
Wilmer Hale, winner of the Team Advocacy Award
About the EJC
The Equal Justice Coalition is a collaboration of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, Boston Bar Association, and Massachusetts Bar Association, working to increase state funding for civil legal aid.