Harrisburg campus recognizes Supreme Court justice with first pro bono award
Public Relations - Published: November 1, 2013
The Harrisburg campus recently recognized one of Pennsylvania’s most distinguished jurists for being a role model at providing pro bono opportunities.

The school gave state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin its inaugural Commonwealth Pro Bono Service Provider Award at an event Oct. 24 in the administration building. The award will be given annually to recognize an individual who exemplifies the Widener commitment to civic engagement and service learning by consistently providing pro bono opportunities to law students from the Harrisburg campus.

Eakin thanked the school and explained his belief that lawyers who approach the law simply as a way to make a living are lesser for that conclusion.

“If your focus is simply on the bottom line it’s going to – I think – prove unsatisfying to you in many ways,” he said.

He encouraged students to be mindful that others will be watching them in practice, and pro bono is a sign of leadership.

“Do it. Embrace it. You’ll get more out of it than any money you’d be paid,” he said.

Public Interest Initiative Director Starla Williams said Eakin was chosen for recognition as an individual who, through his position in the legal system, has worked to create pro bono opportunities for Widener Law students. He was elected an associate justice on the state’s highest court in 2001 and retained in 2011.

Second-year law student Johelys Cecala, spoke at the program about the legal work she has been exposed to through her position in Eakin’s chambers. She does research, writes summaries, checks citations and assists his law clerks.

“I’ve become a more meticulous researcher and writer. I’ve gained a better understanding of the wide range of the law, because of the number of issues that come through the chambers,” Cecala said. “I’m very appreciative to be working with a great group of people.”

Student Brianna Gaumer, president of the Public Interest Law Society, presented Eakin with the award. A reception followed.

Eakin was the second person to be recognized on the Harrisburg campus as part of National Pro Bono Week. The school gave its inaugural Pro Bono Recognition Award to Sandra Ballard, Esq. on Wednesday, Oct. 23. It recognized her for substantial mentoring services she has provided to Widener Law students with pro bono interests. She is the pro bono/public services coordinator for the Dauphin County Bar Association.