By Erin LeClair
The Career and Professional Development Office held the annual Pro Bono and Public Service Honor Society induction ceremony on April 5. The Pro Bono Honor Society recognized 60 students who each volunteered more than 50 hours to help nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or private interests groups dedicated to the needs of persons of limited means. These 60 students collectively worked 6,118 hours, averaging double the required number of hours. The Public Service Honor Society recognized 38 students who each volunteered with city, county, state, and federal government organizations, including the judiciary. These 38 students collectively volunteered over 5,972 hours, completing well beyond the required 50 hours per student.
It is clear that students at California Western go above and beyond the call to service. They are students who serve their community—volunteering more than 12,000 hours—in addition to going to classes and taking part in CWSL community events.
Drew Lautemann, a CWSL alumni and Assistant Director of Career Services, took charge of this program four years ago. Since 2014, Lautemann has supervised the program, including calculating and reporting the hours Cal Western students volunteered for the organizations mentioned above.
“The induction ceremony is one of the most important events of the year. It means a lot because it reminds me of how many great students we have at CWSL committed to helping others and making the legal profession more accessible and fair,” Lautemann said. “It’s also great to see members of the school’s faculty and administration, as well as employers, alumni, and other members of the CWSL community, at the event supporting the students’ work. It reminds me that I am part of a community that cares about making positive change.”
Lautemann and this school have a lot to be proud of. California Western has received the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, with Distinction, five times. The award is the highest federal recognition an institute of higher education can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service learning, and civic engagement. Additionally, in 2010, California Western was the first law school to receive the State Bar of California’s Pro Bono Service Award.
[The ceremony] means a lot because it . . . reminds me that I am part of a community that cares about making positive change.” — Drew Lautemann, Assistant Director of Career Services
Shahin Rahimi, also a Cal Western alumni, was the keynote speaker at the induction ceremony. Shahin, who works with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, sees many Cal Western students come through his doors.
“I cannot run this clinic without countless hours dedicated by students – it’s awesome that so many students are involved. We have a rough estimate that every year since 2007, I’ve had more than 250 hours donated by CWSL students per year,” Shahin said.
His keynote address clearly reflected how passionate he is about volunteer work and the importance of what it means to serve the community. In his speech, Shahin also quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” His point — if a student is feeling down, or unsure about what law they want to practice, a great way to solve both problems is to volunteer time to serve others. Students are immediately rewarded for their efforts and feel great on the inside about their contributions.
One of the most memorable parts of Shahin’s speech was when he quoted William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, “First thing we do, kill all the lawyers.” To put this line into context, if society wants chaos and to be ruled by a king, kill the lawyers. Lawyers are the protectors of law, order, and justice.
“We are entrusted to fight on behalf of Lady Justice. The reason she’s blindfolded is justice knows no color, sexual orientation, culture, language or creed. Only the law and what’s right,” Shahin said. And the Pro Bono and Public Service inductees did just that – defend, prosecute, and represent all members of society, no matter the color of their skin, their background, or the amount of money they carry in their pockets. Justice for everyone.
With these powerful quotes and inspiration in mind, those inducted into the Pro Bono and Public Service Honor Societies proudly accepted their respective awards. These students invested many hours of work into serving the people of San Diego, the State of California, the United States of America, and many other people and organizations in between. Congratulations to all of you!
To learn how to join the Pro Bono Honor Society and/or Public Service Honor Society, contact Drew Lautemann at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop by the Career and Professional Development Office.