During William & Mary Law School’s Diploma Ceremony on May 13, Dean Davison M. Douglas presented Michaela Lieberman J.D. ’18 with the Thurgood Marshall Award.
The Law School Association bestows the honor each year to a member of the graduating class who exhibits the ideals of, and commitment to, distinguished public service as exemplified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993).
"Many of our students have demonstrated a profound commitment to public service, and there are many students we could have selected,” said Dean Douglas. “But there was tremendous enthusiasm among her peers and professors for one graduate: Michaela Lieberman.”
Lieberman did her undergraduate work at Middlebury College in Vermont and came to law school with a passion for public interest law. Not surprisingly, she immersed herself in many pro bono public interest projects while studying law, including working for the Charlottesville/Albemarle County Public Defender.
Douglas said that her supervisor in that office spoke of her “boundless compassion and energy for working with the most challenging clients.”
Lieberman also worked at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Va., on a variety of projects, including the Center’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, which in part helps clients with asylum petitions as they seek to escape gang violence in their home countries.
Douglas said that her supervisor at the Legal Aid Justice Center described Lieberman as one of “our all-time superstar interns” who demonstrated “empathy and a strong ability to connect with clients.”
Lieberman also took on a pro bono project for the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, drafting affidavits and serving as pro bono translator, representing Spanish-speaking juvenile clients challenging a juvenile center’s treatment of juvenile detainees.
“All told, she spent more than 700 hours doing pro bono legal work, for which she received no course credit or compensation,” Douglas said.
Lieberman will join the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville on a permanent basis after law school.
“Public interest law is tough and challenging; it’s hard work, and you need a sense of humor,” Douglas said. “Before law school, Michaela was a standup comedian, so she’s got that covered.”
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.