By Melinda Rogers
A University of Utah law student was named Pro Bono Law Student of the Year by the Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar at an event connected to Law Day, observed across the country annually on May 1.
Adrianna Anderson, a New York native and third-year law student, was recognized for her work in the legal community, which has included working with the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative.
The Pro Bono Initiative is a noncredit volunteer program that allows students to build real world problem-solving skills through work with clients at eight free brief legal consultation clinics throughout the Salt Lake City area, including American Indian law, debtors counseling, expungement, family law, immigration, medical-legal, rainbow law and street law.
The initiative has a three-part mission: To provide skill-building legal opportunities under the direct supervision of attorneys; to develop placements where alumni can volunteer, network and serve as mentors to law students; and to demonstrate the professional responsibility of those in the legal profession to provide pro bono legal services to the underserved in the community who otherwise would not have access to the justice system.
The opportunity is one that helped Anderson gain valuable experience.
“The Pro Bono Initiative is the College of Law’s shining achievement. Students can develop their interviewing and analysis skills while creating important relationships with legal professionals in the community. Not only does this program give students the chance to test their abilities, but it also serves hundreds of vulnerable individuals and families in crisis. The clients I meet at the clinics are truly grateful for the help they receive, as most of them have nowhere else to turn,” Anderson said in an interview about her experience last year. “The attorneys, often former alums of the Pro Bono Initiative and the College of Law, are also grateful to see such passion for service in the next generation. I know my experiences with the Pro Bono Initiative will certainly help me in my future practice, and I am proud of the College of Law’s dedication to instilling a life-long commitment to pro bono work in its students. I would not still be here but for this mission.”
In addition to carrying out family law work at the legal consultation clinic, Anderson served as president of the Student Veterans’ Association, and serves as vice president of the Public Interest Law Organization. She also volunteers with organizations including Utah Legal Service and Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, providing free legal services to some of Utah’s most vulnerable people. In March, she was named Equal Justice Works Fellow at Legal Assistance of Western New York, where she will be working under the supervision of S.J. Quinney College of Law alumni Keith McCafferty. Her two-year fellowship will focus on expanding LawNY’s consumer rights practice to help low-income individuals and families break out of the cycle of poverty.
“Adrianna Anderson has set herself apart at law school through her pro bono work,” the Utah State Bar states on its website. “She has demonstrated through her actions that pro bono legal services are her passion.”
“I have had the pleasure to work closely with Anna for the past two years. Anna is fully committee to the area of public interest law. She has truly made a difference in our community as the PBI Volunteer Student Director over our Free Family Law Clinic,” added JoLynn Spruance, director of the Pro Bono Initiative at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. “Anna has far exceeded my expectations in every area. She is one of our brightest law students who will go on to have a brilliant career as a Equal Justice Works Fellow in New York.”
Besides Anderson’s award, two other graduates of the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law were honored at Friday’s Law Day event.
Aida Neimarlija, a 2008 graduate of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, was named Young Lawyer of the Year. She is an attorney in the law firm of Burbidge Mitchell & Gross where her practice focuses on complex commercial disputes and catastrophic injury cases.
Russell Yauney, a 2010 graduate of the S.J. Quinney College of Law, was named Pro Bono Young Lawyer of the Year. Yauney opened his own practice, which focuses primarily on family law.
The recognitions from the Utah State Bar at this year’s Law Day event speak highly of the quality of training students receive at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, said Bob Adler, dean of the law school.
“The fact that two of our young alumni and one of our students won these prestigious awards this year says volumes about the spirit of public service the College of Law instills, and the enthusiastic way in which our students embrace that ethic and carry it with them into their professional careers,” said Adler.
To learn more about Law Day, click here.
Melinda Rogers is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.