Executive Director's Report
A Stake In The Future
The ABA’s Law Student Division Provides an Array of Benefits for Tomorrow’s Lawyers
Posted May 23, 2006 2:58 AM CST
By Robert A. Stein
One of the most positive developments for the American Bar Association over the past several years has been the record growth and involvement of our law student membership. These future leaders of the profession find their first law-related home in the ABA Law Student Division.
The division, currently chaired by Vicki Goodman of Widener University Delaware School of Law, is a superb training ground for tomorrow’s legal professionals, providing a wide range of programs, opportunities and benefits for its more than 51,000 law student members.
Of the many programs and benefits that law students are offered for their $20 annual membership fee, the division is especially proud of its national competitions and the numerous opportunities it creates for students to perform public service activities and hold ABA leadership positions that provide invaluable experience.
The division’s four national competitions—appellate advocacy, arbitration (co sponsored by the National Arbitration Forum), client counseling and negotiation—bring together law students, faculty advisers and bench/bar volunteers. The competitions enable participants to develop practical legal skills, meet and network with future colleagues, and gain key resumé building experience and recognition.
As much as students receive from their ABA membership, they also give back to the ABA and their communities. Last year, ABA law schools nationwide raised more than $300,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Another public service is the division’s Work A Day program, an annual project conducted in law schools throughout the country. Each year the division adopts a theme, communicates it to all ABA approved law schools, and provides tools and information to help law students organize activities on their campuses. The 2005 06 Work A Day focus is on breast cancer awareness. Another division project is the volunteer income tax assistance program, through which law students provide tax preparation assistance to low income, elderly and non English speaking taxpayers. Students gain hands on experience in client counseling and tax related issues, and taxpayers receive much needed assistance with their returns. The Law Student Division’s grant program provides financial and administrative support to student organizations of ABA approved law schools for programs emphasizing diversity, ethics, professionalism training and public service, preferably conducted in conjunction with state and local bar associations.
The division’s newest public service initiative, to be showcased nationally this August at the ABA Annual Meeting in Honolulu, is its pro bono partnership program. Developed in support of ABA President Michael S. Greco’s Commission on the Renaissance of Idealism in the Legal Profession, the program partners law students with practicing lawyers. Students provide research, writing and other legal assistance to enable attorneys to manage pro bono cases in addition to their client base. Five pilot programs are now active around the country.
The division actively supports the ABA’s goal of increasing diversity in the profession. Its annual Diversity Day encourages law schools to sponsor educational programs and events that promote respect for various races, genders and religions. The division’s diversity award, the Henry J. Ramsey Jr. Award, is presented yearly at the ABA Annual Meeting and complements these efforts, which are backed by the division’s significant financial contributions to the ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund for minority law students.
Among the many superb benefits of division membership is Student Lawyer magazine, which is published monthly throughout the school year. Now in its 34th year of publication, Student Lawyer provides advice rich articles about the ABA and addresses topics ranging from succeeding in law school and job searching to making the transition from law school to law practice.
In addition to its chair, the division’s leadership includes three other officers, 15 regional board members, three delegates to the House of Delegates, a representative to the Board of Governors, student liaisons to most of the association’s practice groups, and ABA law school representatives who promote ABA membership at the grassroots level. For more information on the Law Student Division, contact its outstanding director, Patricia Brennan, at 312-988-5623 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the division’s home page.