Law Student of the Year: Miguel Willis, Seattle University

When asked why he organized the first-ever Social Justice Hackathon at Seattle University School of Law Miguel Willis said, “You give me a problem and I want to solve it.” 

The event brought together law students, lawyers, non-profit organizations and software developers to crank out apps and programs that help increase access to legal services. Teams worked throughout the weekend on projects that aimed to make legal services more accessible to the 80 percent of the poor and 60 percent of the middle class who are unable to afford legal representation.

Among the programs developed in just one weekend were Court Whisperer, which allows people to fill out court documents by speaking, and PaidIt, an app that helps tenants fight eviction by providing proof of paid bills.

The second year is passionate about finding ways that technology can serve the cause of social justice. In his first year of law school, he worked with a developer to create CaseBooker, an app that makes it easier to buy and sell used case books for students in need.

Additionally, he is president of the Black Law Student Association and is involved with several youth mentorship programs. He has worked with the Admission department to recruit law students from historically black colleges and universities. He serves as marketing director for the National BLSA organization. In Seattle he’s an outspoken opponent of the city’s proposal to build a new juvenile jail.

He also directs the Application/Cultivation/Elevation (ACE) Program, a six-week program where youth learn how to innovate. Instructors introduce their business and throughout the program slowly unpack the essential necessities of owning a successful business. Through this program participants learn conceptualization, teamwork, innovation techniques, elevator speeches/public speaking skills, branding, promotion, design, how to make a legitimate business presentation, and most importantly, how to make an app. This fall, he gave a presentation to Seattle’s Technology Access Foundation about creating more opportunities for youth of color in the fields of law and technology.

Willis is one of 25 future lawyers honored in the National Jurist’s inaugural “Law Student of the Year” feature.