June 10, 2009

Law student earns ISBA public service award

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Illinois State Bar Association will recognize a third-year law student in the Southern Illinois University School of Law later this month for her extensive public service-related activities and academic achievements.

Andrea R. Taylor is the 2009 recipient of the ISBA Law Student Division’s Public Service Award. The annual award is presented to a law school student “participating in activities that enhance professional responsibility and provide service to the public,” according to the ISBA.

Taylor will receive award at a luncheon on June 26 during the organization’s 133rd annual meeting, June 25-27, at The Abbey Resort in Fontana, Wis. Taylor, who is from St. Louis, will graduate in May 2010. She is the daughter of William and Jennifer Taylor of St. Louis.

Taylor is extensively involved with several non-profit organizations in the region. She works in the law school’s Self-Help Legal Center and the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, and volunteers at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Center. Cindy Galway Buys, an associate professor at the law school, nominated Taylor at the recommendation of the law school’s awards committee. Buys noted Taylor is very hard working, compassionate, dedicated and smart.

“Andrea Taylor’s record of accomplishments is an example for students everywhere to not only admire but emulate,” said Belleville attorney Jack C. Carey, president of the Illinois State Bar Association. “ She is an outstanding law student whose volunteer participation in activities that provide legal services to the public are truly outstanding. I anticipate she will carry this commitment with her beyond graduation and into her career as a successful practicing attorney. It is with extreme pride and recognition of a job well-done that we honor Andrea with this award.”

Surprised at her selection, Taylor said she is “very honored to receive this award.”

As a part of the award, the non-profit Women’s Center in Carbondale will receive a $250 donation from the ISBA in Taylor’s name.

Taylor earned many awards at the law school’s recent awards banquet in April, including the Jackson County Bar Association Scholarship, the SIU School of Law Public Interest Award, and also being a nominee for the Women’s Bar Foundation Public Interest Scholarship.

“Andrea has been recognized this year with several honors and awards. She is a dedicated law student and she is certainly deserving of the ISBA Student Law Division Public Service Award,” Dean Peter C. Alexander said.

Among her many activities at the law school, Taylor is a public relations coordinator for the Self Help Legal Center, and she chairs a committee formed to help recruit, train and staff center volunteers.

In an accompanying nomination letter to the ISBA, Taylor wrote that she participated in the law school’s Immigrant Detention Center Project at the Tri-County Justice and Detention Center in Ullin. Volunteer law students, faculty, and translators conduct intake interviews of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to assess their legal needs.

She is also an active member of Equal Justice Works, the Women’s Law Forum and International Law Society.

“Andrea is somebody who manages to make time to do these things,” said Mary C. Rudasill, an associate professor and director of the law school’s clinical programs. “She’s a good student.”

Taylor’s work with domestic violence victims in St. Louis dates back to 2001, serving as an advocate with St. Martha’s Hall, and as a victim’s advocate with Legal Advocates for Abused Women.

She became interested in domestic violence issues during her women’s and gender studies program involvement while an undergraduate student. Taylor said she was “outraged that there was not more publicity about domestic violence and how to seek help,” and started working at a domestic violence shelter shortly after that.

“I was frustrated because a lot of our clients needed legal assistance for their Orders of Protection and other legal matters, but their needs would go unmet because there were not enough lawyers to go around,” she said. “Legal Services was always overwhelmed with clients, and the few attorneys that took cases pro bono did not know much, if anything, about domestic violence, and often made the situation worse for our clients because of this lack of knowledge.”

Every person is entitled to justice, not just those who can afford it, she said. People living in poverty are especially prone to be taken advantage of, she said.

“After visiting SIU I knew that the school would be a great fit for me,” she said. “I was impressed with the school’s mission statement: ‘Established in the public interest -- serving the public good.’ I was also very excited about the prospects of working in the domestic violence clinic on campus.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a certificate in women’s and gender studies, and minored in psychology and mathematics at Pierre Laclede Honors College, University of Missouri, St. Louis, in 2003. She earned a master’s degree in theological studies, with a concentration in world missions, from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis in 2006.

Public interest law is where she belongs, Taylor said. Her involvement with the Self-Help Legal Center, the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, and the immigration detention project “continue to reaffirm that public interest law is the right path for me,” Taylor said.

“I have always enjoyed working with people, and these experiences have been refreshing amidst so much time in the classroom and studying,” she said. “ It has been wonderful being able to help people again and to put my legal education to use.”