Pamela D. Robinson, director of the Pro Bono Program at the University of South Carolina School of Law, was awarded the 2021 Father Robert Drinan Award from the Association of American Law Schools during the organization’s annual meeting in January.
The AALS Section on Pro Bono and Public Service Opportunities honors individuals who have dedicated significant efforts towards increasing access to justice through the law school environment, and who inspire similar efforts from others. The Drinan Award is presented to a full-time faculty or staff member at a law school who has forwarded the ethic of pro bono service through personal service, program design or management.
Making the honor that much sweeter, Robinson was nominated for the Drinan Award by members of the 2020 student pro bono board, with support from former law dean Rob Wilcox and others.
“Being recognized for something you love doing is extra special but even more cherished because you get to celebrate with your family, friends, students and colleagues," says Robinson.
Robinson received the award in recognition of her lifetime devotion to advancing access to justice through pro bono service to the citizens of the Palmetto State. She created the Pro Bono Program at South Carolina Law—the nation’s first all-volunteer law school pro bono program—in 1989, and has been its sole director since.
Over the years, the program has offered more than 30 different projects that engage law students in honing their legal skills while also directly benefiting the public. Opportunities have included working as guardians ad litem, creating simple wills, filing tax returns, and helping lawyers who take on their own pro bono cases, just to name a few. If students have ideas for their own pro bono project, Robinson is always eager to help them bring it to fruition.
But regardless of the project, the heart of the program is the “volunteer” aspect.
“Part of our job at the law school is to instill in students the need and the desire to give back to the community throughout their professional lives,” says Robinson. “And you will get so much more out of the experience, and want to continue doing it, if it is not a requirement.”
Always working to create exciting learning opportunities for students, Robinson was instrumental in making South Carolina Law’s next pro bono effort possible: a new mobile law office called the Palmetto LEADER, which will expand the law school’s reach as it provides services to rural parts of the state. The bus will begin rolling down the highway later this year, taking pro bono to the underserved where they are.
In announcing the award, the AALS quoted Betsy Goodale, director of the South Carolina Bar’s Pro Bono Program, who said Robinson is “one of the most—if not the most—well-respected and well-informed pro bono advocates and practitioners in the State of South Carolina.”
Learn more about the many available opportunities the Pro Bono Program offers for both practicing attorneys and South Carolina Law students.