Pro Bono Month Honors for Texas Law and Community

The month of October—during which law schools and organizations across the country observe a celebration of pro bono service—saw a wave of recognition for members of the Texas Law community, and even an award for the law school itself, for contributions to public service and pro bono projects.

Texas Access to Justice Commission

The Texas Access to Justice Commission recognized Justin Atkinson ’24 and the law school at their annual awards ceremony on Oct. 30. 

Justin Atkinson '24, Catherine Buthod '23, and Associate Dean Susan Morse at the TAJC Awards ceremony
Justin Atkinson ’24, Catherine Buthod ’23, and Associate Dean Susan C. Morse at the TAJC awards ceremony on Oct. 30. Buthod was recognized for receiving one of the highest scores on the July 2023 Texas bar exam.

Atkinson, who has been involved in public service legal work throughout law school, was presented with a 2023 Law Student Pro Bono Award. The honor recognizes a law student whose pro bono work has made a significant impact on the community and reflects a passion for advocating on behalf of underserved populations. In addition to his work with the pro bono program, Atkinson has participated in Texas Law’s Housing and Civil Rights clinics, serves on the student advisory board for the William Wayne Justice Center, and is staff editor for the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights. 

“Texas Law made pro bono opportunities available to me from day one of law school, and each case that’s come through our Title IX project has offered a different lesson on the practical experience of law” says Atkinson. “Our volunteers provide a critical service to students and employees in a vulnerable position and I’m glad that those efforts are getting recognized.”

Andrea Marsh, director of the law school’s Mithoff Pro Bono Program, praised Atkinson’s work. “As a 1L, Justin was a dedicated and compassionate advisor to survivors of sexual assault and helped them navigate the Title IX process, and as a project leader during his 2L and 3L years he has been instrumental to the development of the Mithoff Program’s Title IX project,” she says. “I’ve been so impressed by how he handled himself as a student volunteer and how he has used his volunteer experience to help guide and support other law students who are serving as pro bono Title IX advisors.”

In addition, Texas Law was selected as the recipient of the 2023 Access to Justice Law School Commitment to Service Award. This award recognizes the law school in the state that has “most distinguished itself by actively educating its students about access to justice issues, thereby carrying forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession in Texas.” 

Associate Dean Susan C. Morse accepted the award on the law school’s behalf.

“This recognition is meaningful to all of us at the school,” says Dean Bobby Chesney. “Service is a huge part of our culture as a flagship public law school, and I am so gratified that the commission bestowed this honor on us. Everyone here should be proud.”

Texas Law has been well-represented in the Texas Access to Justice Commission Awards in the 2000s, including selection as the school winner in 2011 and five previous winners of the Law Student Pro Bono Award.

Also recognized on Oct. 30 were Ethan Head and Catherine Buthod, both members of the Class of 2023. Head received the highest score on the July 2023 Texas bar exam and Buthod the third-highest score.

Association of American Law Schools

Kelly Haragan and Frances Leos Martinez portrait
The AALS 2023 Pro Bono Honor Roll recognized Frances Leos Martinez, right, pictured with her clinical programs co-director Kelly Haragan.

Texas Law was represented in all three categories of recognition—staff, faculty, and students— on the Association of American Law Schools 2023 Annual Pro Bono Honor Roll, which acknowledges the work of individuals supporting their law school community’s pro bono legal services. The three community members on the Honor Roll are:

  • Sarah Sedgwick, who serves as the senior administrative program coordinator for the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law
  • Frances Leos Martinez, the co-director of the clinical program and director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic
  • Justin Atkinson ’24, who now adds AALS’s recognition to his growing list of honors 

The University of Texas Friar Society

The university’s oldest and most prestigious honor society, the Friar Society, selected Texas Law staff member Rhiannon Hamam ’16 to receive its Tany Norwood Award. The award has been presented every fall semester since 2006 to recognize outstanding contributions to student life made by a staff member or an administrator. It is named after the society’s longtime advisor and the former assistant dean of students.

Rhiannon Hamam wearing a purple blazer
Rhiannon Hamam ’16, supervising attorney in the Mithoff Pro Bono Program.

As supervising attorney in the law school’s Richard and Ginni Mithoff Pro Bono Program, and a member of the Class of 2016, Hamam has helped students on a huge number of pro bono projects and learning opportunities. A double Longhorn, she has long been involved in campus life as a community leader, volunteer, and mentor. While a student at the law school, she received the Hildy’s Cutback Award in recognition of her unique contributions to Texas Law, an award chosen by the law school faculty.

“I feel honored to work with law students in experiential learning environments to support the development of their passion and interest in legal work as we provide critical legal services to people in need,” says Hamam.

As a member of the Friar Society, TAJC winner and AALS Honor Roll member Atkinson presented Hamam with her award at a ceremony on Nov. 3.

Category: Law School News, Student Life
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