Inspiration to pursue a legal education can come from many different directions—a friend or relative, a perceived injustice, or even a new TV show. LSAC has added another source of inspiration—a fellowship that supports emerging leaders who will work to inspire prospective students to pursue legal education by developing innovative pathways to advance justice and the rule of law. LSAC’s first Presidential Innovation Fellow is Miguel Willis, the 2016 National Jurist Law Student of the Year.
Miguel’s entrepreneurial spirit, drive to innovate, and commitment to diversity and access to justice made him the ideal choice to become LSAC’s first Presidential Innovation Fellow. He is committed to using his law degree in a nontraditional way to solve seemingly intractable problems. At LSAC, he will grow his Access to Justice Tech Fellows Program, which he founded while obtaining his JD from Seattle University School of Law. It is a national 10-week, summer fellowship program that trains law students to work with technology to improve delivery of legal services, many through Legal Services Corporation (LSC)–funded organizations. Training is primarily online and covers technology competence, project management, legal design thinking, and cultural competency. For the coming summer, his program will support 25 fellows from 23 law schools.
Miguel’s own inspiration to combine legal education with technology to help solve the problem of access to justice for low-income and remote populations came from attending his first access to justice hackathon. He was inspired by the lawyers he met there who were working with students to solve problems with an energy and focus that he found very contagious.
Miguel sees himself as a “facilitator and connector who can do deep diving and examine the issues within issues.” He values his legal education for honing his analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as his communication and writing skills, but he wants to provide pathways for entrepreneurial law students, such as himself, who want nontraditional learning experiences and opportunities that don’t necessarily involve being hired by a law firm. The skills that Miguel learned at hackathons—agility, nimbleness, iterative problem solving by thinking, doing, testing, and evaluating—are those that he has used to pursue his nontraditional career and that he hopes to instill in an ever-increasing number of law students.
LSAC Presidential Innovation Fellows will serve two-year overlapping terms. Fellows assist LSAC with its work in building the justice pipeline while having structured support to incubate their fellowship project.
“Miguel is inspiring,” said Kellye Testy, LSAC President and CEO. “Out of his desire to solve problems for others, he is creating new pathways to use a law degree to advance the common good. Our world needs more Miguels!”
The application process for selection of the next Presidential Innovation Fellow (term to begin in September 2019) will open on September 10, 2018, at LSAC.org.
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