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March 31, 2006

Apr. 6: Oregon State Bar Pro Bono Challenge Awards – WE DID IT AGAIN!

Law and business students offer free tax preparation help
Law students win 2006 Oregon State Bar Pro Bono Challenge
with 10,552 volunteer hours 
UO law students spearheaded Oregon’s first law school pro bono program in 1996 and, since the Oregon State Bar first offered its Pro Bono Challenge to law students five years ago, we’ve aced the competition.
In 2006, we did it again with 10,552 logged volunteer hours on behalf of the poor and legally underserved.
Pro bono projects include the UO site of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, offering tax preparation help for low and moderate income community members. This year, law students joined forces with business students. As of April 1, volunteers had already helped 130 tax filers, with the two busiest weekends yet to come. This pro bono project (pictured above) is completely student run and the only free-standing VITA site in Oregon.
Pro Bono program director Jane Steckbeck said, ““Each year, students start new projects, join existing organizations, and donate hundreds of hours, all while balancing their full time class schedules. This is the essence of pro bono and public service. Their passion to contribute their legal skills continues to astound me.”
She will accept this year’s Jane Steckbeck award on behalf of the law school on Thursday, April 6 in Portland.

The award ceremony takes place from 5:30 to 6:30 P.M. at the  Embassy Suites, 319 SW Pine St. 

University President Dave Frohnmayer will keynote the awards ceremony, which also honors all of the Oregon lawyers and law firms who contributed a total of more than 86,000 pro bono hours this year. 
The law school’s three top individual contributors were students Dennis Borges, who donated 411 hours to the Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C.; Sara Reisman, 400 hours to the Oregon Court of Appeals; and Justin Hepworth, 400 hours to the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Vegas. 
Organizations that have benefited from the UO Law pro bono program include district attorneys and public defenders in a number of states as well as these Oregon programs: ACLU, Governor’s Sexual Assault Task Force, Lane County Legal Aid, Self-Help Divorce Classes through Lane County Legal Aid, Senior Law Project, American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, Oregon Innocence Project, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, Civil Liberties Defense Center, Pacific Rivers Council, Community Mediation Services, 1000 Friends of Oregon; E-Law; District Attorney and Public Defender offices in multiple states, Peer Courts in Eugene, Veneta, and Cottage Grove, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Street Law; US Immigration Court; and the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs.  


– Eliza Schmidkunz 


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