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St. Thomas Law Celebrates Community Service with First Annual Public Service Awards Program

On Thursday, April 12, the St Thomas University School of Law held its First Annual Public Service Awards program. Dean Douglas Ray introduced the Program by stating “Today we celebrate the difference a lawyer can make in a community and the particular difference our students make in this community.” Dean Ray noted that St. Thomas Law students provided over 15,000 hours of volunteer service to the community and that the 39 students in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program helped more than 500 hundred low and middle income taxpayers and military personnel file returns and receive over a million dollars in tax refunds, earned income credits, and education credits. Dean Ray also welcomed and thanked the dozens of public-spirited lawyers and judges who supervise law students in their pro bono work.

Pro Bono Commendation Certificates were presented to the 42 students who each provided more than 100 hours of volunteer service to the community as part of the law school’s Pro Bono Leadership program. Some had provided 500 and 600 hours of service. Dave Sooklal and Vladimir Larios from the Immigration Law Clinic and Joseph Hunt from the Tax Law Clinic received Outstanding Clinic Student Awards and Victoria Mendez of the Office of the City Attorney in Miami, received the Outstanding Supervisor Award which recognizes an outstanding lawyer or judge who supervises students in their pro bono work.

Keynote remarks were delivered by Dade County Bar Association President Andrea Hartley, Esq., a shareholder in the Akerman law firm and former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Group. In congratulating the students for their efforts, she stressed the importance of volunteer work by the bar and the difference a public-spirited lawyer can make in the life of an individual and of a community.