News and Information
June 01, 2010

William and Mary Law Student Wins Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Award

Robert J. Poggenklass, who graduated last month from the College of William and Mary School of Law, has been selected to receive the Virginia State Bar’s 2010 Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award.

The award, named for a late Virginia civil rights litigator, recognizes a law student’s commitment to uncompensated or minimally compensated pro bono work and other public service. It is bestowed by the VSB Committee on Access to Legal Services.

Poggenklass has provided pro bono service on many fronts, according to the nomination letter from Robert E. Kaplan, associate dean and director of externships for the law school. Poggenklass eventually hopes to have a civil rights practice.

He assisted victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, worked for four public defender offices in exchange for a stipend or academic credit, advocated on behalf of disenfranchised felons who have served their sentences, founded and led a W&M Law School chapter of the Student Hurricane Network, and helped revive the law school’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

His public defender work — which took place in Manassas, Norfolk, Richmond, and San Francisco — included death penalty cases and indigent defendants in federal and state courts.

When he came to Virginia for law school, he already had volunteer experience. He received the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award in 2007 for serving on the board of directors of an organization that focused on urban revitalization.

“My parents did a really good job of instilling in me a sense that the world is bigger than just me and that I need to spend my time helping people. Otherwise I’m not living a productive life,” Poggenklass was quoted as saying in a W&M publication.  He added that pro bono work in courtrooms and jails is “more important than a lot of the stuff I do in class.”

Poggenklass is a native of Guttenberg, Iowa. In addition to his law degree, he holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Cornell College. He has an upcoming fellowship planned with the Virginia Public Defender Office in Alexandria.

The Hill Award will be presented on June 18 during the Virginia State Bar’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach.

Updated: Jun 01, 2010