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Wake Forest Law student Henna Shah (JD ’21) stands in the Worrell Professional Center Commons.

Wake Forest Law student Henna Shah receives Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service

Wake Forest University School of Law student Henna Shah (JD ’21) has been chosen as the recipient of the 2021 Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service in recognition of her outstanding pro bono service to the Winston-Salem community. Now in its seventh year, the award is given annually to a Wake Forest Law student who demonstrates a passion to serve people in need, and whose pro bono service has a positive impact on the community and increases access to legal information.

Shah provided nearly 600 hours of pro bono work while a full-time student at Wake Forest Law, where she has also served as the executive director of the Pro Bono Project, community outreach director of the Public Interest Law Organization, president of the International Law Society, communications director of the Environmental Law Society and a member of the editorial staff of the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy.

“Pro bono work is absolutely essential, and Henna’s work is reflective of Wake Forest University School of Law’s commitment to instilling its importance in each of our graduates so that they will continue to help those in need throughout their law careers,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken. “Henna sets an exceptional example of leadership for all of our students.”

The Triangle’s largest law firm, Smith Anderson, funded the establishment of the Smith Anderson Office of Community Outreach at Wake Forest Law, which houses the Public Interest Law Organization — a student-run organization that works in collaboration with Wake Forest Law to train future lawyers to serve both their clients and their communities — and the Pro Bono Project. Through the Pro Bono Project, students have the opportunity to provide assistance to attorneys who offer legal services at no fee or at a substantially reduced fee to individuals in need, fostering a life-long commitment to pro bono work among Wake Forest Law graduates.

“Pro bono work has taken on an added significance in the past year,” said Gerald Roach, Smith Anderson’s Firm Chair and Wake Forest University Board of Trustees’ Chair. “The pandemic created many needs, and Smith Anderson applauds Henna’s extraordinary dedication to serving others in these extraordinary times.”

In her application for the award, Shah described how the pro bono experiences she has had while at Wake Forest Law have been pivotal in her decision to pursue a career focused on pro bono work.

Of her time leading the Pro Bono Project, Shah said the experience she was most fond of was creating the Protesters’ Rights Project, which seeks to develop awareness around the legal rights of assembly and protest while building connections between law students and the community. In addition to that project, multiple others were established during her leadership, including the COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Project, the COVID-19 Housing Eviction Project and the Driver’s License Restoration Project.

“During law school, I had the privilege of serving my community through pro bono legal work and services both in and outside of the courtroom,” said Shah. “It is an honor to be named the recipient of the 2021 Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service.”

Eligible candidates for the Smith Anderson Pro Bono Award for Exceptional Service must:

  • Be a Pro Bono Honor Society member, which requires students to complete 75 hours of pro bono service over a three-year period or 50 hours in one year;
  • Have 100 or more pro bono hours within three years or 75 hours or more within one year; and
  • Exhibit passion, creativity, dedication and commitment to serving those in need in a way that results in demonstrated impact or increased access to legal information among an underserved population.

For more details about the award, contact Bill Cresenzo, Communications and PR Coordinator for Smith Anderson, at wcresenzo@smithlaw.com or Amelia Nitz Kennedy, Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations for Wake Forest Law, at nitzkea@wfu.edu.

Inaugural Kay Hagan Award presented to Wake Forest Law student Katharine Batchelor

Wake Forest Law student Katharine Batchelor (JD ’21) received the first-ever Kay Hagan Award on Thursday in recognition of her achievements in the law school’s State and Local Government course. Established in August 2020, the award honors the late United States Sen. Kay Hagan (JD ’78), who passed away in October 2019.

“Kay Hagan is a model of what we would hope would happen with Wake Forest Law students,” said Wake Forest Law Dean Jane Aiken during the award ceremony. “If you look at all of the things she did, this is a woman who was courageous and took strong positions on issues — and that’s important.”

Sen. Hagan, a Wake Forest Law alumna, served for a decade in the North Carolina General Assembly as a senator representing Guilford County before being elected to one term in Congress as the state’s first Democractic female senator.

During the ceremony, Sen. Hagan’s husband, Chip Hagan (JD ’77), described his wife’s passion for service at both the state and federal level.

“She was very interested in trying to do things to make our state a better place to be,” said Hagan. “For us to be able to recognize the people that do well in state and local government, and recognize the importance of it, and to have Kay be a part of honoring that is to me exactly what she would have wanted.”

Batchelor is the first recipient of the award, which will be given annually to the best student in the law school’s State and Local Government course taught by Adjunct Professor Don Vaughan (JD ’79).

Vaughan is a former North Carolina state senator who was elected to fill Sen. Hagan’s seat when she became the state’s U.S. senator. He also served seven terms as a member of the Greensboro City Council.

“I’m proud that we get to honor our friend Kay Hagan, who meant a lot to this school and meant a lot to me personally,” said Vaughan.

Batchelor’s final paper for the course — “The Echo of Silent Sam: How the Fall of UNC’s Notorious Confederate Monument Illustrates Complex Questions of Authority in North Carolina State and Local Government” — led to her selection for the award.

“I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad, so I enjoyed examining the various government actors involved in the Silent Sam controversy through a legal lens,” said Batchelor. “Furthermore, as a native North Carolinian and a law student pursuing a public interest career, it is particularly meaningful to receive an award that honors a woman who dedicated her life to serving this state and its citizens.”

During her time at Wake Forest Law, Batchelor has also been managing editor of the Wake Forest Law Review and executive director of the Public Interest Law Organization. In August, she will begin clerking for Judge Darren Jackson on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Members of the award selection committee also attended the ceremony, including Mike Fox, partner at Tuggle Duggins and chairman of the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Paul Mengert, chairman, Piedmont Triad Airport Authority Board of Directors and an alumnus of Harvard Business School; Nancy Vaughan, Mayor of Greensboro; A. Grant Whitney (’76, JD ’79), partner at Parker Poe, et. al., and former chairman, North Carolina State Board of Elections; and Brad Wilson (JD ’78), executive-in-residence at Wake Forest University and former chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

All five members of the selection committee have been lecturers in the course over the past seven years, bringing real-world experiences into the classroom for Wake Forest Law students.