Law student wins national award for pro bono initiative

Author: Dennis Brown &Carol Jambor-Smith


The Public Service Law Network Worldwide has presented its Pro Bono Publico Award to third-yearNotre DameLawSchoolstudent Adrienne Lyles-Chockley for her work to establish Social Justice Services, a non-profit legal aid clinic in nearbyBenton Harbor,Mich.

Formerly a philosophy professor at theUniversityofSan Diego, Lyles-Chockley enrolled at Notre Dame in the summer of 2003, not long after racial rioting rocked the city ofBentonHarbor. The following summer, she split her time working as a research assistant for Walter Pratt, associate dean of theNotre DameLawSchool, and as an intern with the Economic Development Group ofBentonHarbor. In the latter capacity, she assisted the city council on the development of the Hope VI project, a $32 million public housing initiative.

Her work with the Hope project and with Cornerstone Alliance, an organization that promotes economic and civic development inSouthwest Michigan, convinced Lyles-Chockley of the need for an agency to assistBentonHarborresidents who lack the means to secure legal services and resources.

This past summer, Lyles-Chockey worked for the South Bend law firm Jones Obenchain for 40 hours a week and, during evenings and off days, she returned to Benton Harbor to gather community support for a legal aid clinic. Using connections she had established the previous year, she secured donated office space and is now offering limited pro bono legal assistance while awaiting approval of a 501©(2) request to open the clinic full time.

According to the Social Justice Services mission statement, the clinicaims to achieve social justice through information dissemination, legal service provision, community empowerment, alliance formation and individual self-sufficiency.

In nominating Lyles-Chockley for the PSLawNet award, Erika Harriford-McLaren, assistant director for career services in theNotre DameLawSchool, wrote:(She) has always maintained her focus in the public service sphere. It is because of her unwavering dedication to serving the needs of the under-privileged and under-represented that I ….nominate (her).Harriford-McLaren added:Her pursuit of justice for a community that is not even her own … and her fearlessness in approaching this challenge and making this project come alive has really shown me and her other classmates the necessity of using our law degrees to provide pro bono services.

Lyles-Chockley earned her bachelors degree in English fromIowaStateUniversityand her masters and doctoral degrees in philosophy from theUniversityofColorado. Prior to enrolling at Notre Dame she served as an assistant professor of philosophy at theUniversityofSan Diego. Her future plans include practicing at Jones Obenchain and expanding Social Justice Services into a full-service holistic legal services clinic.

The Public Service Law Network Worldwide (PSLawNet) is composed of nearly 130 member law schools and more than 12,000 law-related public interest organizations in theUnited Statesand around the world. Through an online database, PSLawNet provides a comprehensive clearinghouse of public interest opportunities for lawyers and law students. Members can perform customized searches of several thousand public interest opportunities around the world, ranging from short-term volunteer and paid internships to post-graduate jobs, fellowships and pro bono opportunities.

_ Contact: Adrienne Lyles-Chockley at _

TopicID: 14063