Pro Bono Kick-Off Event Honors Kelly Bates ('94)

On Thursday, October 10, BU Law students, faculty and alumni gathered for the annual Pro Bono Program Kick-Off to launch a new year of student service and to honor distinguished alumna Kelly Bates (’94) with the 2013 Victor J. Garo Public Service Award. Dean Maureen O’Rourke instituted this annual distinction in 2007 to honor Garo’s 30-year pro bono commitment to a wrongful conviction case.

kelly batesDuring her remarks, Bates shared her extensive experience as an advocate for underrepresented communities in the political process, as well as how she has built pro bono work into her career.

Currently the founding executive director of the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research at Emerson College, Bates has managed a number of organizations focused on empowering communities, especially those that include youth, young adults, low-income families, women and people of color. Prior to Emerson, she was the executive director of Access Strategies Fund, a nonprofit/nonpartisan charitable foundation that seeks access to democracy for underserved communities in Massachusetts through grant funding.

Additionally, Bates has served as a diversity and inclusion consultant, trainer, and legal expert for universities, colleges, foundations, nonprofits, government agencies, and corporations. She has been deeply involved in grassroots lobbying, community action, coalition building, and political education.

Through pro bono work, Bates has helped many Boston-area organizations apply for legal nonprofit charitable status so they could fundraise to improve conditions for marginalized communities. She has represented battered women in divorce and separation proceedings for the Family Law Project for Battered Women at the Women’s Bar Association. And her extensive community service work includes everything from helping found Emerge Massachusetts – which encourages and supports women running for office – to organizing 200 people in her community of Roslindale to keep the local library open during city budget cuts.

In addition to honoring this distinguished alumna, the Pro Bono Kick-off provided an opportunity to celebrate BU Law’s flourishing Pro Bono Program, which enables students to engage in volunteer legal work on the state, national and international levels. By taking the Pro Bono Pledge, J.D. students commit to completing a minimum of 35 hours of law-related work over the course of their three years in law school. LL.M. students commit to a minimum of 12 hours. Upon completion of pledged hours, students are recognized for their participation by receiving a notation on their final law school transcripts and in the graduation program. In addition, the J.D. student and LL.M. who complete the most hours receive an award at the year-end celebration.

The Pro Bono Program is housed in the Office of Career Development and Public Service. It partners with various organizations to assist students in identifying opportunities of interest and coordinates spring break service trips, in which students work nationally and locally on pro bono projects during the break.

Reported October 21, 2013

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