More than 200 members of the UCLA School of Law community gathered on Nov. 3 for the law school’s fourth U. Serve L.A. celebration, an event that this year also marked the conclusion of UCLA Law’s second Public Service Challenge. Students, staff, and faculty members joined in recognizing the community’s remarkable pro bono, public interest, and public service contributions.
Founded in 2018, the U. Serve L.A. event has raised more than $240,000 for UCLA Law’s public interest initiatives. Co-sponsored by UCLA Law’s David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy and the UCLA Law Alumni Association, U. Serve L.A. includes live entertainment and the presentation of awards to several distinguished members of the law school’s public interest law community.
This year, three members of the UCLA Law public interest family were singled out for special recognition: Scott Cummings, the Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics and a former faculty director of the Epstein Program; Brenda Kim, the former manager of operations and events for UCLA Law’s Office of Public Interest Programs; and Victor Narro, the project director for the UCLA Labor Center and a 2L Seminar Instructor in the Epstein Program.
Fifteen students from the law school’s J.D., LL.M., and Masters of Legal Studies classes were also honored for their outstanding commitment to public service and public interest law: Yasmin Abusaif ’22, Maya Chaudhuri ’21, Tiana Cherbosque ’23, Michelle Edgar M.L.S., Korbin Felder ’23, Maggie Gaffney ’21, Shaunita Hampton ’21, Lydia Heye ’22, Rodrigo Padilla-Hernandez ’21, Jackie Park ’22, Jasmine Robinson ’23, Melissa Segarra ’23, Seadimo Tlale LL.M. ’21, Brandon White LL.M. ’21, and Jessica Xu ’22.
“It is impossible to put into words really how special [receiving this award] is to me,” Cummings said in accepting his award from UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “Over the course of my 20 years at UCLA, my most profound experiences and relationships have been with students and colleagues in the public interest program, people who have constantly reminded me why I became a lawyer in the first instance: to speak to power, to stand in solidarity alongside those with less power, to demand that our laws live up to their promise of equal justice, long proclaimed but never realized. Never has that project been more important and vital than it is right now.”
During the law school’s annual Public Service Challenge, from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3, more than 460 members of the UCLA Law community contributed over 1,050 pro bono hours to an array of legal and non-legal volunteering opportunities throughout Southern California. That total was a substantial increase over the roughly 300 students, staff, and faculty members who took part during the challenge’s inaugural year. Participants were encouraged to complete two hours of pro bono work by donating blood, cleaning up a community garden, conducting housing intake interviews, serving legal clinics, or engaging in other endeavors.
In 2021, the challenge also coincided with the launch of UCLA Law’s Judge Rand Schrader Pro Bono Program, and the program’s inaugural director, Grace Meng, was introduced and spoke at the U. Serve L.A. event.
“U. Serve L.A. was a terrific night to gather together as a community, after all of the time that we spent apart during the pandemic, and celebrate our collective work in the public interest and public service, which is so important to us at UCLA Law,” says Brad Sears, the law school’s associate dean of public interest law. “That so many people turned out and participated in our challenge underscores why UCLA Law is a leader in this area. We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to our programs and pro bono efforts — generosity that sets us on a path to do even greater things in the years ahead.”