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School of Law Graduate Honored with Pro Bono Service Award

VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota School of Law 2018 graduate Kaleb Paulsen was honored with the William F. Day, Jr. Law Student Pro Bono Award at the 2018 meeting of the State Bar of South Dakota.

Paulsen served in the South Dakota Army National Guard for 10 years with one deployment to Afghanistan. This past year as president of the Veterans Legal Education Group (VLEG), he helped establish a spring legal clinic in Watertown, in addition to the annual service trips to Sioux Falls and the Black Hills. In total, the VLEG served over 100 veterans last academic school year.

“There is no better feeling than making a difference in the life of someone who has bravely served their country, and having the opportunity to give back,” said Paulsen. “They are so thankful for the service we provide and it gives us the opportunity to experience the work we will accomplish after we graduate from law school.”

Ramon Ortiz-Velez, director of experiential learning and a mentor of Paulsen's, said Paulsen excelled as a leader and a student. 

"Kaleb Paulsen forged a legacy of professionalism and meritorious volunteer service while balancing the School of Law's scholastic demands," Ortiz said. "Kaleb directed the execution of two Veterans’ Legal Clinics, helping combat and disabled veterans throughout South Dakota, while serving as ambassador for incoming law students and applicants. He also collaborated with volunteer attorneys, the South Dakota Bar and law school students in a variety of community and legal services programs."

The William F. Day, Jr. Law Student Pro Bono Award is an annual award created in 2008 in honor of William F. Day, Jr., the state’s first pro bono coordinator. The award recognizes the dedication and motivation of a law student who most enhanced the delivery of quality legal services to indigent people and underserved communities in South Dakota while as a student at the USD School of Law.


USD’s Knudson School of Law prepares students for leadership in the administration of justice in South Dakota, including in rural areas where the demand is great, and for private practice, public service, business and other law-related endeavors anywhere. Its joint degree program allows students to also earn one of nine master’s degrees within the traditional three-year law curriculum, which includes course tracks in business, commercial, constitutional, criminal, employment, environmental, Indian, real estate and tax law as well as civil litigation and estate planning.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News