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Perseverance in Profile


SYLVIA NOVINSKY: PRO BONO ADVOCATE BY TOM CALARCO


Sylvia Novinsky has dedicated her career to helping others. Her work in developing pro bono programs has won awards, and her efforts to instill a desire in law students to give back to others is a labor of love.


10 “I


After majoring in industrial and labor relations at


Cornell, Novinsky gravitated toward the study of immi- gration law while at George Washington School of Law. Her parents’ experience, she says, was infl uential, plus her ability to speak Spanish was an asset. Her fi rst job was as a legal writing instructor at the District of Columbia School of Law. During this time she volunteered at an immigra- tion clinic and began her pro bono work. “My fi rst pro bono experience was in immigration


have this notion that education is important and someone has to provide a voice for people who don’t have one,” says Novinsky, the assistant dean for Public Service Programs at the University of


North Carolina School of Law. Born in the U.S. to Argentine


emigrants and raised in Queens, N.Y., Novinsky spent most childhood summers in Argentina. Her father’s impoverished upbringing and the repressive government in her parents’ homeland inspired her to spend much of her career working for social causes or public service.


DIVERSITY & THE BAR® NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011


law,” she says, “and my fi rst job [as an attorney] was with immigrant farm workers. I felt I was doing something very helpful to people, guaranteeing the protections of state and federal law.” Since then pro bono has become the focus of her career,


and her move into the Public Interest Law Program at the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1996 was her launching pad. There she founded and coordinated the school’s Pro Bono Program. It started, she says, with a student who wanted to


volunteer with a legal organization. However, instead of waiting for work to come their way, they started to create projects for unmet needs that they heard about from the legal communities. T e program is open to all law students. After complet-


ing 50 hours of pro bono service, they receive a letter of recognition from the dean of the law school, and after completing more than 75 hours they receive a certifi cate from the North Carolina Bar Association and the law school acknowledging their service at the end of their third


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