Last night, Washington lawyers gathered to celebrate one of the finer aspects of the legal profession--the spirit of public service.
At the annual Equal Justice Works awards dinner, held in the atrium of the Ronald Reagan Building, the organization honored three lawyers who have dedicated themselves to putting their legal skills to work for some of society's least well off.
Equal Justice Works provides two-year fellowships to young lawyers who implement public works projects in under-served communities. At last night’s dinner, David Stern, who serves as chief executive officer of the organization, announced that this year's awards dinner raised over $1.43 million.
Scott Burrill, a University of Iowa College of Law 3L, received the Exemplary Public Service Award for a Law Student for his work representing indigent clients as part of his internship at the Alaska Public Defender Agency. Burrill, who was introduced by Judge Ann Claire Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, said his work for the Public Defender Agency reminded him of “why I went to law school in the first place.”
Equal Justice Works also honored Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer with the John R. Kramer Outstanding Law School Dean award for his leadership of Stanford’s effort to make the law school more public service oriented. Under Larry Kramer’s watch, Stanford has expanded its clinical education program, pushed law students to pursue public service after they graduate, and built the international law program to support the increasing globalization of law practice.
Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit presented Larry Kramer with the award, calling him an “outstanding” law school dean who has overseen “a dramatic explosion in public interest programs.”
The final award of the evening, and Equal Justice Work’s highest honor, was presented to D. Bruce Sewell, who received the Scales of Justice Award for his work in founding Intel Corp.’s pro bono legal program. That program has helped thousands of Intel employees put their skills to use as volunteers helping improve their communities. In September, Sewell stepped down as senior vice president and general counsel of Intel to join Apple Inc. as general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs.
The Scales of Justice Award was presented by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, herself a lawyer who left her lucrative partnership at Boies, Schiller & Flexner to go into government service.
In his remarks, Sewell took time to acknowledge the fact that despite the increasing commitment to pro bono work at both law firms and in corporate legal departments “the legal profession is one of the least diverse portions of society in the world, particularly at the senior partner and general counsel level.” According to this year’s National Law Journal diversity special section, the number of minority lawyers at some of the country’s largest law firms has remained relatively flat.
Sewell closed by challenging the lawyers in attendance to “look at ourselves and ask whether we are creating opportunities for young, diverse lawyers.”
“We have the opportunity to share the potential and passion of diverse lawyers, so that one day we may transcend the diversity of race, gender, and religion,” he said.