Lexi Acello Named School of Law 2020-21 Pro Bono Fellow
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Dean Margaret Sova McCabe has named Alexis "Lexi" Acello the University of Arkansas School of Law's 2020-21 Pro Bono Fellow.
Each year, the dean selects one or more promising students to serve as a University of Arkansas School of Law Pro Bono Fellow during their third year of law school. The title, along with a stipend, recognizes and supports exemplary law students committed to pro bono (legal services performed free of charge or at reduced fees for the public good). Fellows encourage their peers to engage in pro bono and other forms of community service.
Acello was selected in recognition of her extraordinary dedication to service, significant leadership potential and prior performance of substantial pro bono work.
"Lexi is an incredible role model for our law students," said Annie Smith, associate professor of law and director of the school's Pro Bono and Community Engagement program. "In a short time, she has demonstrated tremendous passion for service and a commitment to using both her talents and the law to make a meaningful impact."
She was one of the law school's inaugural Summer Public Service Fellows and spent the summer between her first and second year of law school working directly with low-income clients to help them gain access to quality civil legal services at the Center for Arkansas Legal Services in Fort Smith.
In the fall of her second year, Acello was recognized as one of the school's top 10 pro bono students during National Pro Bono Week, and by the end of her second year, she had performed more than 170 hours of pro bono service.
In addition to her work at the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, she volunteered as the Deputy Ombudsman for the Washington County Jail Ombudsman Project during the 2019-20 school year. She has also participated in many one-time events including naturalization and criminal record sealing clinics. In response to the coronavirus, she helped lead an effort to collect and distribute food to more than 200 individuals through a pop-up food pantry. She also worked with the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition to provide weekly food boxes to Fayetteville Housing Authority properties.
"My strongest urge is always to help," said Acello. "Engaging in pro bono work allows me to contribute to organizations and groups on the ground doing the work."
Fellows serve as student leaders of the law school's Pro Bono and Community Engagement program. They attend outreach events with other law students, participate in one-day clinics, assist with recruitment of law students for pro bono service and engage in planning related to the program.
"Lexi has a different set of challenges than those that faced her predecessor," Smith said. "In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of pro bono work, and we are fortunate to have a fellow who has so much experience, commitment and creativity."
Acello is active in student organizations within the law school including the Immigration Law Society, Black Law Students Association and National Lawyers Guild, for which she was president during her second year. She currently serves as an associate on the Board of Advocates. She was raised in Clarksville and earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and government from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
Throughout the summer, she served as a law clerk for the Capital Murder Unit of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. After she graduates in May 2021, she intends to pursue a career in juvenile criminal defense.
Darinda Sharp,director of communications
School of Law
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