The Spokane County Bar Association (SCBA) and the Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) presented their annual Pro Bono Awards at a luncheon on June 13th, 2014. This year’s award recipients included five Gonzaga Law alumni, one a former professor, who were honored for their dedication and commitment to volunteer service.
Law Student the Year
This year, the VLP introduced the Law Student of the Year Award to the annual ceremony. Amber Rush, a 2014 graduate of Gonzaga Law School, was given the award for her efforts toward paving a way for students to become more involved with volunteer law opportunities. From the beginning of her law school career in 2011, Rush became involved with the Center for Law in Public Service (CLIPS). In addition to her work with CLIPS, Rush was instrumental in the establishment of the Family Law and Student Help Program (FLASH), a pilot pro bono service project for the Law School. FLASH is a partnership between Gonzaga Law School and the VLP that connects trained law students to VLP mentor attorneys and allows them to provide pro bono service to low income clients. In 2012, Rush founded a new Family Law Club for law school students. Rush has also volunteered with the Divorce Advice Clinic (DAC), the Family Law Advice Clinic, and the Women’s Hearth Advice Clinic. Since January, she has worked with the Law Office of Eowen S. Rosenstrater, PLLC.
Housing Justice Project Attorney of the Year
Arthur Toreson Jr. (’73) received the Housing Justice Project (HJP) Attorney of the Year Award. The HJP offers legal aid to individuals who have received eviction notices. Toreson Jr. was commended by the VLP for his willingness to listen to and work with clients, as it prevented many of them from losing their homes.
Status Conference Advice Clinic Attorney of the Year
Andrea M. Poplawski, ’01, was given the Status Conference Advice Clinic (SCAC) Attorney of the Year Award for her consistent service with the clinic. The VLP noted her reliability, as well as her presence at nearly all of the SCAC’s weekly Thursday morning meetings. While at Gonzaga Law, Poplawski was given a Public Interest Law Project summer grant, which allowed her to work closely with Spokane area women and children. In 2002, she received a prestigious Equal Works Fellowship. Poplawski was one of just forty United States lawyers selected to find new and innovative ways to continue serving those in desperate need of legal assistance. In 2005, the Gonzaga Women’s Law Caucus named Poplawski as the recipient of the Myra Bradwell Award, which honors the Gonzaga alumni who has used their legal career to help make a difference in the lives of women and children in need. She is a five-time recipient of the Washington States Board Association’s Pro Bono Public Service Commendation Award. Poplawski currently works with the firm of Olive│Bearb & Grelish, PLLC.
Consumer Assistance Program Attorney of the Year
Al McNeil, a 1977 Gonzaga Law graduate and former professor, received the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) Attorney of the Year Award. McNeil graduated from the University of Ohio in 1969, and taught special education until began law school at Gonzaga in 1974. During his 37 years as a Gonzaga Law professor, McNeil worked closely with University Legal Assistance (now known as the Center for Law and Justice). He founded and led the Consumer Litigation Clinic, and had great success bringing justice to low and middle-income consumers, individuals and families. McNeil now works as a legal counselor with the firm of Cameron Sutherland, PLLC. The VLP honored McNeil for his consistent availability and his desire to make a difference in the lives of the CAP clients.
Divorce Advice Clinic Attorney of the Year
Karen G. Schweigert, ’03, was given the award for Divorce Advice Clinic Attorney of the Year. The DAC works closely with clients in need of Family Law advice. The VLP recognized Schweigert’s quick willingness to go above and beyond while helping a client, as it was an immense help to the DAC and resulted in the reunions of many clients and their children.
About the Volunteer Lawyers Program
The VLP is the Spokane County Bar Association’s legal assistance program. Since 1985, the VLP has recruited volunteer attorneys to provide free legal counsel in civil cases to low-income individuals in Spokane County. The awards are given every year to honor Spokane attorneys for their dedication to the community, and to encourage others to volunteer in the future.
For more information about becoming involved with the VLP, visit http://www.spokanebar.org/vlp.html.