Law Student of the Year: Stacey Michel, Tulane University

Stacey Michel, a third-year law student, has demonstrated exceptional devotion to improving the New Orleans community through her pro bono legal work. 

Tulane University Law School requires at least 50 hours of pro bono work to graduate, but Michel already has donated more than 500 hours. 

Michel started volunteering at the Youth Study Center, Orleans Parish’s juvenile detention facility, in the fall of her first year of law school, and she continues to provide pro bono assistance protecting the rights of incarcerated youth. Combining aspirational national practice guidelines with mandatory state juvenile detention standards, Michel created a tool to improve living conditions for youths at the New Orleans facility. The tool — the first of its kind in the nation and a model for other centers in Louisiana — will be put in place this spring and is expected to result in measurable improvements on many fronts.

She also helped the Youth Study Center plan for staff and policy changes to improve compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act and minimize problematic interactions between staff and youths at the center. Currently, she’s working on state legislative proposals with the goal of reducing mass incarceration in five southern states. 

“In the nearly 20 years that I have overseen bright law clerks, Stacey is easily the most successful and committed student that I have had the opportunity to supervise,” her supervising attorney said. “Stacey has truly left a lasting mark on the juvenile justice system in New Orleans.”

When the New Orleans Court Watch program faced crunch time for finalizing its 2015 annual report, Michel drew on her law journal experience, efficiently editing and carefully footnoting the document to meet critical deadlines.

Michel hopes to pursue a career in juvenile justice or public interest. 

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