The Massachusetts Bar Association will present Northeastern University School of Law student Anna Shaddae Rodriguez with its 2019 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Scholarship at the MBA’s May 9 Annual Dinner. The $10,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a graduating law student currently attending a Massachusetts law school who is committed to providing legal assistance to underrepresented individuals and communities in Massachusetts upon graduating.
Rodriguez initially entered Northeastern University School of Law with ambitions of landing a high-paying job and fully escaping the cycle of poverty. Now with additional life experiences and on the brink of graduation, she has chosen to serve a more personal calling as a public defender in Lawrence, where she will primarily represent clients with similar upbringings and shared cultural identities.
Raised in Somerville and Dorchester as the daughter of Dominican immigrants, Rodriguez developed an early interest in the law and a special admiration for attorneys when she became accustomed to seeing family members entangled in the justice system. Many years later, Rodriguez still struggles to understand why legal knowledge, as one of society’s most valuable commodities, remains inaccessible to a large portion of the population.
“The arm of the law touches everyone, and I think it’s odd that only a few people can really engage with it on a deep level,” Rodriguez said.
As an employee of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Rodriguez plans to speak openly about the need for greater diversity and increased cultural competence in a profession often dominated by white practitioners and minority defendants. In the same way she has felt empowered as a law student taught by professors of color, Rodriguez believes that her future clients will respond well to a Spanish-speaking attorney who directly identifies with their experiences.
An active student volunteer at Northeastern, Rodriguez found her greatest fulfillment in serving the school’s Prisoners’ Rights Clinic, which reinforced her desire to defend the rights of vulnerable individuals. Rodriguez said her client most appreciated that she was willing to fight for him where few others would, and that she hopes to instill the same level of trust in all those she represents.
“I think this is the closest thing to a superhero I’ll probably ever be. I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Rodriguez said.
The SOLD OUT 2019 MBA Annual Dinner will also include the presentation of the MBA's Chief Justice Edward F. Hennessey Award, the 2019 Legislator of the Year Award, the 2019 MBA President's Award and the 2019 Access to Justice Awards.
Visit www.massbar.org/AD19, or call (617) 338-0543 for additional information.