Stephen Rispoli, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs at Baylor Law has been awarded the Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year Award by the State Bar of Texas, an honor presented to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the delivery of, and access to, legal services for the poor.
“At a time when so many in our country are unable to afford quality legal services, we believe it is a key part of our mission at Baylor Law to educate our students about the importance of pro bono work,” said Dean Brad Toben. “We’re so proud of Stephen’s outstanding leadership in promoting Baylor Law’s mission of service and his tireless efforts to help lawyers understand the importance of using their legal talents to give back to their communities. This honor from the State Bar of Texas is richly deserved.”
In addition to serving as Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs at Baylor Law, Rispoli has served as an officer of the Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association (MCYLA) for several years, including as President this past year. Under Dean Rispoli’s leadership, the MCYLA launched the Pro Bono Challenge in 2015. The Challenge provides all lawyers in McLennan County the ability to easily track hours online and keeps lawyers up to date with new and ongoing pro bono opportunities. Since the Challenge’s inception, it has met or exceeded its goal for reported pro bono hours each year. Attorneys participating in the 2018 Challenge donated more than 2,500 hours.
Dean Rispoli’s work in encouraging pro bono service among practicing lawyers is only a small fraction of the work he does in his capacity as the administrator of pro bono programming at Baylor law. Dean Rispoli developed and coordinates the Baylor Law Pro Bono and Public Service Program, through which students can use their legal education to serve the Central Texas community. Since its inception, more than 325 students have reported over 10,000 hours of volunteer service while enrolled as full-time students, over the summer months, and during school breaks. The pro bono work done by these students includes work in the Baylor Law Veterans and Immigration Clinics, serving as Court Appointed Special Advocates, analyzing evidence that contributed to convictions through the local Innocence Project, volunteering at the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, and assisting with the Baylor Law’s annual People’s Law School.
In response to the twin problems of the Access to Justice Gap and legal underemployment, Dean Rispoli helped launch Legal Mapmaker in 2016. Legal Mapmaker is a series of workshops that prepares young lawyers to open their own law firms. It provides a model business strategy with two goals: help lawyers succeed, and help the public find affordable legal services by showing lawyers how to provide legal services efficiently and with low overhead.
In addition to his pro bono leadership in Central Texas, Dean Rispoli serves on the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Workgroup and serves as chair of the Pro Bono and Public Service Section of the Association of American Law Schools.
Dean Rispoli’s efforts in the field of pro bono legal education have led to national, statewide, and local recognition. Since 2010, Baylor Law has been recognized with ten major pro bono awards including the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Commitment to Service Award for demonstrating dedication to advocating for underserved populations and substantial support for student involvement in pro bono legal service. In 2015, Baylor Law received the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award, the ABA’s highest honor for outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.
Rispoli received his award at Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on Thursday, June 13th.
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ABOUT BAYLOR LAW
Established in 1857, Baylor Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,500 living alumni. Accredited by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools, Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. Baylor Law boasts among its notable alumni two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as among the best in the nation at No. 2. Baylor Law School also is ranked No. 48 in the magazine’s 2020 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools.” The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the “Best School for Practical Training” and No. 4 in the nation in its most recent “Best Law School Facilities” listing. Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since its inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at baylor.edu