Third-year Temple Law student Emily Bock has been selected to win a 2015 Merit Distinction award from PSJD, a public service initiative from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). Only three law students nationwide receive such recognition from PJSD each year. The honor comes in recognition of Bock’s extraordinary commitment to pro bono service and her significant contributions throughout her law school career.
The award coincides with the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Week celebration, which begins on October 26th. The ABA holds the celebration each year to raise awareness of the tremendous unmet need for civil legal assistance in low-income populations, and the ability of pro bono lawyers and law students to make a difference in these communities.
“Emily is a tireless advocate for low-income individuals,” wrote attorneys at Community Legal Services (CLS), “especially those who have been involved in conflict with the criminal justice system. She goes above and beyond for her clients, and is also thinking about how she can have a broader impact.” Bock has worked closely with CLS to develop the NLG Expungement Project, a collaboration between the Temple chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild and CLS through which student volunteers help CLS run large-scale expungement clinics in poor communities throughout Philadelphia. “Thanks to Emily’s leadership work, hundreds of Philadelphians with criminal records have gotten expungements, allowing them to move forward with their lives.”
Professor Jennifer Lee, who teaches a social justice lawyering clinic at Temple’s Sheller Center for Social Justice, praised Bock for her leadership within the law school community. “The impact of Emily’s pro bono efforts on the Temple community has been to show that law students can take leadership to make a difference…. She has shown the Temple community the fundamental importance of collaborations.” Lee is currently working with Bock to ensure that the Expungement Project remains a sustainable, student-led initiative after Bock graduates in May.
In addition to her expungement work, Bock also serves as an external coordinator for the Restorative Justice Project at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Graterford. In that role, Bock acts as a liaison between Graterford and the Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) and participates in 2-day and 10-week workshops about restorative justice values and practices. “The work that I do is centered on the limitations of the criminal legal system,” explained Bock. “There are profound unanswered questions that stem from the criminal legal process and the systemic impacts it has on people’s lives long after their cases have concluded…. When I think about the impact I have had on my clients, the law school community, and the larger communities that I am a part of, I hope that at the very least I have offered them an opportunity to consider their part in a movement to empower those who have been marginalized by the criminal legal system.”
“I hope that my work with the Temple NLG Expungement Project and the Restorative Justice Project at SCI-Graterford has shown other students (both undergraduates and law students) that they can be agents of change, even when it feels like their work is just a drop in the proverbial bucket,” concluded Bock. “We can all be part of a fight for economic and racial justice. The first step is recognizing that every person has the potential to grow and the right to be treated with dignity and kindness.”