Michigan Law students honored with 2024 Excellence in Pro Bono Service Awards

By Annie Hagstrom
Michigan Law

The University of Michigan Law School recently recognized five students and one student organization with the 2024 Excellence in Pro Bono Service Awards.

Each year, the awards celebrate the accomplishments of Michigan Law students who have shown dedication to pro bono service alongside their academic responsibilities. Through participation in clinical programs and student-led initiatives, these students exemplify the core values of Michigan Law through their commitment to serving their communities.

In addition to awards for outstanding individuals in each class and an outstanding pro bono project, the Law School also celebrated 58 graduating students who completed the Pro Bono Pledge. Through the Pro Bono Pledge, students commit to completing at least 25 hours (LLM) or 50 hours (JD) of pro bono service while attending law school.

“I enjoy many aspects of my job, but recognizing the outstanding students who do pro bono work is one of my favorites,” said Professor Amy Sankaran, director of Michigan Law’s Externship and Pro Bono Programs. “Our students are making a difference across a number of communities, but pausing to recognize them can be difficult. Pro bono work is a professional obligation for lawyers, and seeing our students dive right into service while also juggling their law school responsibilities is inspiring.”


Outstanding 1L Award

Victoria Pedri, Legal Alternative Winter Breaks, Gender Violence Project, Michigan Access Program

“I consider it a professional responsibility and a personal calling to provide legal assistance to those who may not otherwise have access to it. Through pro bono work and community advocacy, I can make a tangible difference in individuals’ lives, especially in fighting gender-based violence, an area I’m particularly passionate about. Michigan Law offers students an array of pro bono opportunities, which is a crucible for advocacy in action. As a future attorney, I aim to understand the theoretical aspects of the law and engage directly with communities and individuals affected by these issues.”

Meghan Ward, Student Rights Project, Sentence Commutation Project

“Watching my 2L and 3L classmates be successful leaders and advocates within the Student Rights Project (SRP) and the Sentence Commutation Project (SCP) has been inspiring. Being involved in pro bono service as a 1L has been energizing because, while much of my work focused on theory-based doctrinals, I also worked on real-world cases. My experience has reaffirmed why I came to law school, and I am even more motivated to work harder in other areas of my life and studies.”


Outstanding 2L Award

Patrick Fraser, Sentence Commutation Project

“I benefited from life-changing pro bono work early in my life, so I’ve sought opportunities to pay it forward. Coming to Michigan Law, I was impressed at the number of pro bono projects available and the encouragement 1Ls receive to jump right in. The faculty and administrative support are also stellar. After graduation, I plan to work in affordable housing and community development, and I hope to use what I learn from my pro bono and clinical work to help build strong communities and overcome systemic barriers to justice and rehabilitation.”

Michael Deneroff, ’24, Student Rights Project, Sentence Commutation Project, Eviction Defense Project

“I came to Michigan Law knowing I wanted to work in direct services, either as a public defender or a legal aid attorney. Pro bono projects have been an amazing way for me to put my values into action. Building relationships with each client and seeing the immediate help my legal knowledge can bring to their lives provides me joy, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to do so as a student. Now that I’ve graduated, I will work as a public defender for the King County Department of Defense in Seattle.”


Outstanding LLM Award

Camila Calvo, ’24, Legal Alternative Winter Breaks, Student Rights Project, Sentence Commutation Project

“When I came to the US, I had been practicing law in Argentina for seven years. I felt the need to do something tangible while at Michigan Law, and when I learned about all the ways I could be involved with pro bono work, I knew I was in the right place. Through SRP, I began working with a Mexican individual who almost exclusively speaks Spanish. I am a Spanish speaker, and this is the first time he has been able to truly talk about his case with someone. I want to continue giving people the opportunity to feel heard while I’m working in the US—I can’t see myself doing anything else.”


Outstanding Pro Bono Project