William & Mary Law School Recognizes Exceptional Service With Spring Awards

  • Recognizing Service
    Recognizing Service  Laura Shepherd, the Associate Dean for Student and Academic Services, and Betta Labanish, Administrative Assistant, have been honored for their outstanding service to the Law School.  Photos by David F. Morrill
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John Marshall Award - Laura Shepherd

Laura Shepherd, Associate Dean for Student and Academic Services, and Chief Equity Officer, has been honored with the John Marshall Award. Given annually at the end of spring semester, the award recognizes a faculty or staff member who has demonstrated “character, leadership and a spirit of selfless service to the Law School community.”

Shepherd joined the Law School administration in September 2018. Her portfolio of responsibilities includes academic support, wellness, equity and inclusion initiatives, exam scheduling and administration, student accommodations, and personal and professional support. She also supervises the Law School Registrar’s Office.

Members of the Law School community who nominated Shepherd for the award referred to the many roles she has played during the past year of the Covid 19 epidemic. “She wears so many hats at the school (seriously, like ALL of them),” one reviewer wrote, “and somehow manages to keep her composure through an enormous job that I imagine is much like herding cats.”

Another reviewer noted that although “this past year has probably been the absolute worst time to be in this position,” Shepherd is “still here and kicking” and doing her best for every student at the Law School.

Shepherd began her career in the Office of the District Attorney of New York County, where she served as an Assistant District Attorney with significant responsibility in prosecuting domestic violence cases. She later served as Director of Academic Affairs at New York Law School, and as Assistant Secretary to the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners, a role in which she managed all aspects of the attorney admissions process, including bar exam administration and character and fitness issues. Prior to coming to William & Mary, she was the Associate Dean for Student Services at North Carolina Central University School of Law.

The award honors the example of John Marshall (1755-1835), who served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall was among the first students to study law under the tutelage of George Wythe at William & Mary.

Chris Creech Award - Betta Labanish

Betta Labanish is the recipient of the 2021 Chris Creech Award, which is given annually to a deserving member of the Law School staff in recognition of outstanding service and commitment to the Law School. The award is named in honor of former Associate Registrar Chris Creech, who passed away in 2015.

Labanish grew up in Pittsburgh and was an executive secretary before joining the William & Mary Law Library as administrative assistant in early 1989. As secretary to Jim Heller, then Director of the Law Library, Labanish provided secretarial support for the library and maintained personnel and student and hourly payroll records.

“She has been the rock of the law library—and the Law School,” Heller said. “Betta will literally do anything, for anyone. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they work—anywhere in the law library, law school, or College is fair game. Betta is not just like—she is—the little engine that could.”

Labanish  previously was an executive secretary to a vice president, and the manager of domestic and international divisions of Koppers Company Inc., in Pittsburgh, Pa. She attended Robert Morris College and Thomas Nelson Community College. When she joined William & Mary, she was a member of Professional Secretaries International and served on the Service and Education Committee, was a vice regent of the Catholic Daughters of America, and did volunteer work helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In July 2015, Virginia’s Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues recognized Labanish for her work as a CommonHealth Coordinator on the William & Mary campus. The accompanying certificate from this wellness program said that she was “an important link to our employee workforce’s effectiveness and longevity.”

Most recently, Labanish has served the Law School as Administrative Assistant, keeping the front office running and maintaining a physical presence in the mostly empty building during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dean Ben Spencer praised Labanish for being "a consistent backbone of steel for the School" during the past year as she greeted everyone at the door.

"Her generosity of spirit, and her generosity with her own resources, are just remarkable—a testament to the impact that we all can achieve when we believe in something and follow our hearts to make a difference," Spencer said.

About William & Mary Law School
Legal education in a university setting began at William & Mary in 1779. Now in its third century, America's first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.