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Alumna Spotlight: A Pro Bono Way of Life

Alumna Spotlight: A Pro Bono Way of Life

Amy Dunathan Hammer with J.E.B. Stuart High School students.

Amy Dunathan Hammer’s relationship with Street Law has been an exciting journey combining pro bono work and a passion for law!

Amy first became acquainted with Street Law in 2001, as a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. Under the guidance of Rick Roe, professor of law and director of the school’s D.C. Street Law Clinic, Amy and her fellow law students taught practical law to underserved populations for academic credit. Amy was assigned to a local women’s shelter, where she and a classmate helped a group of residents learn about family law issues—such as custody and child support—that were highly relevant to their daily lives.

When she wasn’t teaching a Street Law course or studying at Georgetown Law, Amy worked on Capitol Hill as a Senate committee staffer. Working on the Hill during the day and studying law at night was a full workload—how did Street Law even fit into the mix? And why would anyone willingly add another commitment, albeit one for class credit, to their stressful schedule? Amy says Street Law, with its general appeal to anyone interested in law and education, was for her an obvious fit. Additionally, Street Law provides a valuable reality check for law students. It gives them a chance to leave the ivory tower and help people who can benefit greatly from understanding their legal rights and responsibilities. And the class credits she received didn’t hurt either.

After law school, Amy clerked for the Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina, a now-retired judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. On her lunch hour, Amy continued to volunteer her time in the community, this time at a local elementary school where she tutored students in reading skills.

After clerking, Amy went to work at Wiley Rein (then Wiley Rein & Fielding), where she specialized in litigation, regulatory, and strategic matters. She then did a stint as associate counsel in the Office of Counsel to the President under President George W. Bush.

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J.E.B. Stuart High School student John Cosgayon presented Street Law’s 2012 Legal Diversity Pipeline Award to General Counsel Randy Milch, who accepted on behalf of the Verizon legal department.

In 2009, Amy made the move to corporate law, joining the legal department at Verizon. Today, she is an assistant general counsel in the company’s patent litigation group, where she manages a number of patent litigation cases. She also plays a leadership role in the Street Law component of the department’s pro bono program. This award-winning program was started by General Counsel Randy Milch in 2009—and Street Law is a huge part of it.

Through Street Law’s Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, Verizon's legal department has eight active sites across the country at which hundreds of Verizon lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals volunteer to teach diverse high school students about law and legal careers. Amy leads Street Law activities for Verizon’s program in Arlington, Virginia, where the Verizon team works with young people at J.E.B. Stuart High School. Verizon volunteers pair up to teach students about employment law, contracts, advertising law, the Fourth Amendment, privacy, and other areas of law by engaging students in interactive exercises that use real-world examples. The program culminates in a conference where students showcase what they’ve learned. In recognition of its exemplary work in this and other Verizon Street Law programs, the Verizon legal department received Street Law’s Legal Diversity Pipeline Award in 2012.

Amy spoke of how rewarding it is to see students become interested in law as a result of the Street Law program. Over the years, students have told the volunteers that they learned “that there isn’t just one type of lawyer, but… many different types,” and that “the program has opened my mind to new possible opportunities.”  They reported that they learned to keep their eyes on the details and think before they speak, and that they “loved arguing and getting serious about it.” In fact, they concluded that “corporate law is not all boring and can actually be really interesting” and “it was fun being you guys for a day”! 

Student learning also went beyond the subject of law: students “got to know many great lawyers at a personal level and see that we weren’t so different[:] that they started out as unsure about their future as we were.” “When my colleagues and I hear feedback like this, we feel excited and proud, because even if the students don’t join the legal profession, they have picked up important analytical and negotiating skills that will serve them well in whatever path they choose,” Amy said. “And they now have a positive experience and relationship with the law.”

Amy and her Northern Virginia colleagues have enhanced their Street Law Pipeline Program with the addition of a college essay-writing program for J.E.B. Stuart seniors. Each fall, Verizon volunteers work in groups and one-on-one with these college hopefuls to provide helpful guidance and valuable essay review.

Amy credits her long history with Street Law as an experience that has helped her be a better lawyer and a better person. She loves participating with Street Law and being around the students. “It’s such a pleasure to have the opportunity to teach young people who have had little exposure to the law (or, if they have, it may not have been the most positive experience). Street Law teaches them that the law applies to everyone, and empowers them to understand how it can positively impact their lives.” 

Amy is currently on Street Law’s board of directors and continues to be an integral part of Verizon’s pro bono program. She is also a member of Street Law’s new Alumni Network, which is reconnecting the tens of thousands of Street Law alumni around the world with the work of Street Law, Inc. 

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Topic: Civic & Law-Related Education

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