"Pro bono and public service work are very much in our DNA here at California Western."
So said Niels B. Schaumann, the law school's president and dean, as he welcomed honorees and guests to the induction ceremony for the Pro Bono and Public Service Honors Societies.
More than 100 students were named to the two societies for giving more than 13,000 hours of their time for either pro bono or public service legal work over the past year.
"This is just fantastic," Schaumann told the students. "You are uniquely suited to help people with a legal problem when they would not be able to get help otherwise."
Keynote speaker Jeffrey S. Isaacs '68, a member of the Board of Trustees and recently retired partner at Propcopio, talked about how although he was doing well in his law firm, he realized he "wasn't making a difference in anybody's life."
That was the epiphany that led Isaacs to pro bono work.
"I started representing people and didn't charge them," Isaacs said. "I didn't want to just serve only the other partners, so my salvation came not from within the firm but from without the firm."
Isaacs' message hit home with 2L Clinton M. Pierce, who says his career path will be in public service law.
"I definitely know I'm going into public defense," Pierce said. "Hearing Mr. Isaacs was really inspiring for me and set in stone that that's what I want to do."
Rewarding is a term many of the inductees used in describing their experiences with pro bono and public service work.
"Extremely rewarding," said 2L Arcelia N. Magaña, "it's so helpful to take the knowledge that you've gained in law school and the knowledge that you've gained in the real world, and apply it to help people who don't have access to that knowledge. "Magaña worked at both the California Western Community Law Project (CLP) and the Legal Aid Society.
"Giving back to the community is really rewarding and doing it on behalf of California Western is even more so," said 3L Joanne L. Heilbrun, who completed her public service work at the U.S. District Court for Southern California.
"I like the feeling of giving people something that they just couldn't find anywhere else and being able to help them," said 3L Ian E.R. Smith, who provided pro bono work for both CLP and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program.
"This is why you become a lawyer," Schaumann said. "You pay it forward."