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Michigan Law Students Honored for Public Service, Pro Bono Work

By Lori Atherton
April 19, 2013

Law school should be a time of exploration and an opportunity to get to know yourselves and your interests, Michigan Law graduate Amy Cocuzza, '09, advised students during an April 17 banquet honoring their public interest and pro bono work.

Amy Cocuzza, '09, Guest Speaker at the Public Service Banquet"Use your time in law school to get to know yourself and what you really care about," Cocuzza said. "Learn what speaks to you, and learn what you don't know anything about but that seems interesting to you. Study what you suspect will give you good skills, and try to figure out how you want to spend your day when you're not at law school and are out in the real world."

Cocuzza, an attorney advisor in the Division of Advice at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C., was the guest speaker at the public service banquet, which recognized 1Ls and 2Ls pursuing summer public interest work as well as 3Ls working in public service post-graduation.

Cocuzza joined the NLRB in August 2009 as an honors attorney, which allowed her "to rotate through a lot of different offices within the NLRB before deciding where I wanted to land." The Division of Advice, she said, turned out to be the right fit, "because what really speaks to me in the law is taking a big, complicated question and diving in and getting the right answer. That's what my current job allows me to do."

There are different ways to work as a public interest lawyer, Cocuzza said, so it's essential that students discover what's important to them and what they're passionate about. Doing so, she said, will lead them on a career path toward "deep satisfaction."

"I'm four years out of law school, and I love what I do," Cocuzza said. "And at the end of the day, I turn off my computer, go home, and think 'I did work that I feel really good about.' Know that you can go out there and get a job that's going to allow you to use your strengths and skills and do work you feel good about, too."

Along with honoring public interest students, the banquet recognized 55 members of the 3L class who completed Michigan Law's voluntary Pro Bono Pledge, which asks students to perform 50 hours of pro bono work during their three years at the Law School. As a whole, the 3L class completed 9,822 hours of pro bono service, according to Amy Sankaran, '01, Michigan Law director of externship and pro bono programs.

In addition, four students received Excellence in Pro Bono Awards: 1L Daniel Dena, 2Ls Betsy Fisher and John VanDeventer, and 3L Alisa Whitfield. Ruby Robinson of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center was named the Outstanding Pro Bono Supervisor, while the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Project was honored as the Outstanding Pro Bono Project.

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