Posted: February 20th, 2012 | By: Lisa Snedeker
The Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Steven M. Virgil, director of the Community Law and Business Clinic and associate clinical professor of law, at the Founders’ Day Convocation on Feb. 16, 2012, in Wait Chapel.
In his four years at Wake Forest, Virgil has helped create opportunities for law students to make a difference in the community through the Community Law and Business Clinic. His clinical students have provided legal services to more than 400 individuals and entities.
According to Executive Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Suzanne Reynolds, students praise Professor Virgil for infecting them with his passion to serve the underserved and marginalized, for his exacting ethical and professional standards, and for being “a really cool guy.”
“The CL&BC is one of the most significant ways that the University uses its human and intellectual capital to make a difference in the community in which it lives,” Reynolds said. “Students in the CL&BC, which assists NGOs and low-wealth entrepreneurs, describe the experience as the most meaningful of law school, and they describe the quality of legal services that they provide under Professor Virgil’s supervision as ‘better than any I’ve seen in any of the law firms with which I have clerked.’”
In addition to the clinic, Virgil teaches Poverty Law and Non-Profit Organization Law, among other courses. He is also serves as the University’s first Director of the Institute for Public Engagement and he has fostered inter-professional development, joining divinity, medical and law students for week-long courses in Nicaragua, where the students compare their senses of professional identity and where law students spend their time providing legal services to NGOs in Managua.
“I’m honored to receive the Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award,” Virgil said. “Teaching at Wake Forest has been the most rewarding experience in my career and to receive this recognition is a great honor.”
Prior to joining the Wake Forest law faculty in 2008, Virgil taught at another law school for several years and practiced law in Cleveland, Ohio and Omaha, Neb. He clerked for the Honorable George W. White, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, is a former legal aid lawyer, and an Equal Justice Fellow.
The Joseph Branch Excellence in Teaching Award was established in 1985 to honor Wake Forest alumnus Joseph Branch (JD ’38, LLD ’83) upon his retirement from the North Carolina Supreme Court. Branch embodied the humanistic, student-centered approach to legal education that is the law school’s heritage. Recipients are chosen from the School of Law faculty on the basis of outstanding teaching and service to the legal profession.