“I am so pleased to report that Nicole Heffel ‘13 just won the 2015 California State Bar President’s Pro Bono Award in the “Recently Admitted” category, this is truly an honor,” said Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic Director, Professor Steve Berenson. “I am particularly pleased because, at least some of Nicole’s service was through our Veterans’ Self-Help Clinic.”
“The Thomas Jefferson Veterans Self-Help clinic was really the birthplace of my passion to help veterans and provide pro bono services,” said Navy veteran Heffel. “I was heavily involved with the clinic while I was in law school and I continue to volunteer at the clinic to this day.”
The California State Bar has presented the President’s Pro Bono Award for over 30 years to deserving attorneys and firms that demonstrate their commitment to vulnerable populations. Each year the State Bar Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services (SCDLS) reviews nominations and grants up to nine awards among five categories: individual, which includes the “Recently Admitted” category, law firm, corporate or government legal department, law school, and distinguished pro bono service.
“I am extremely honored to be recognized by the California State Bar for my pro bono work,” said Heffel.
Some of the factors considered in selecting nominees are the breadth and impact of their work, practice setting, challenges to doing the pro bono work, nature of the services contributed, and evidence of the nominee’s continuing commitment to pro bono work. With her accomplishment, Heffel joins a select group including 2014 winner and Thomas Jefferson School of Law Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic counselor Michael T. O’Halloran.
Heffel recently completed her LL.M. in Taxation, Financial Services, and Wealth Management and launched her own practice. At the Heffel Law Firm she focuses on comprehensive estate planning and asset protection. As demonstrated by the California State Bar’s recognition, neither her educational goals nor her entry into private practice has diminished her commitment to increasing access to justice through pro bono work. Heffel affirms, “I dedicated a lot of my time and work to helping veterans. I sometimes struggle to keep my lights on and to pay my rent, but I can’t turn away from the ones that need help. The work I do with veterans is very satisfying. Not only do I get to help a worthy demographic that I believe in, but I get to really practice law.”
The President’s Pro Bono Awards will be presented at the State Bar’s Annual Meeting being held October 8-11 in Anaheim, California.