The Virginia State Bar selected Zachary A. McDonnell, who graduated from William & Mary Law School in May, as recipient of the 2019 Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award. The award honors extraordinary achievement in pro bono and under-compensated public service work in Virginia, and is given to one graduate from among all current-year graduates of the Commonwealth’s eight law schools. McDonnell received the award on June 14 during the Bar’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach.
McDonnell performed 1,195 hours of pro bono and community service while a law student. In her nomination letter, Professor Rebecca Green wrote, “In my thirteen years of teaching at William & Mary Law School, I have never encountered a student more committed to public service than Mr. McDonnell.”
A broad array of clients and organizations, including individuals whose voting rights were restored, legal aid offices, family and elder law clinics, and a domestic violence shelter, benefitted from McDonnell’s efforts.
For two years McDonnell served as Director of Revive My Vote, a student-led initiative at William & Mary Law School to assist Virginians with felony convictions to regain the right to vote. In that role, he personally helped at least 500 Virginians restore their voting rights. One of those grateful individuals commented, “Zach is the best. He worked with me before I was even eligible for restoration. If it wasn’t for Zach, I wouldn’t have even known I could vote again.”
McDonnell also was exceptionally dedicated to assisting survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Rachel G. Widenhouse of Williamsburg’s Avalon said, “Mr. McDonnell has comprehensive insight into what domestic and sexual assault survivors face in the courtroom. He also dedicated entire days to mulching the children’s playground and transitional housing unit flower beds.”
That kind of effort led Ann H. Kloeckner, Executive Director of Legal Aid Works in Fredericksburg, to write, “His dedication to the mission of civil legal aid is rare and exemplary.”
Named for Oliver White Hill, Sr., an attorney and civil rights icon, the award was inaugurated in 2002. McDonnell joins Maryann Nolan Chong ’07, Kaylee Gum ’16, Rob Poggenklass ’10, and Reco A. Thomas ’02 as William & Mary Law winners of the award.
This is the second award for pro bono service that McDonnell has recently received. The Law School recognized him at graduation on May 12 with the Thurgood Marshall Award, an honor given each year to a member of the graduating class who exhibits the ideals of distinguished public service exemplified by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Read more here.
About William & Mary Law School
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.