Volunteer Spotlight

headshot-2Pro Bono of the Month – July 2023

Dr. Bonnie Verlaine Smith

Bonnie Smith has a Bachelor of Science degree from Northeastern University. A Juris Doctor from Arizona Summit Law School. A Master of Laws in International Law from the University of San Diego Law School and a second Master of Law in International Business and Human Rights from Northeastern University School of Law. She has two published writings on The Right to Water in the United States drafted as a memo for the then Special Rapporteur of Human Rights for the United Nations.

Bonnie has lived, studied, and worked all over the world. She loves to travel and greatly appreciates the history, culture, and food in the places she visits.  Bonnie holds two U.S. Embassy badges in recognition of her work with human rights efforts for the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia. She was also a Fellow of the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE). As a PHRGE Fellow, she joined a growing group of outstanding advocates with a deep interest in human rights who are exploring various theories concerning critical race, constitutional jurisprudence, and analysis of social change in their quest to seek understanding and solutions so that they can make a difference in the world at large. She also loves good wine, cooking, and entertaining with friends and family.

Bonnie became involved with pro bono work after working for Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. She was one of the immigration attorneys, and she says she had the great fortune to have served hundreds of immigrants by preparing and filing their temporary benefit petitions and a variety of other petitions. In May of this year, Bonnie returned to the for-profit legal sector. However, she still longed to contribute to the non-profit community. She thus continued serving those in need in the immigration sector by taking on pro bono cases exclusively from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

When asked why she does pro bono work. Bonnie responded that her pro bono efforts provide a wealth of rewards through the emotional joy and satisfaction she receives from helping an immigrant in need. She believes it is an honor and a duty to give back, and pro bono work provides that opportunity for her.

We asked Bonnie to tell us about a memorable client and how she helped them. She told us there are so many stories to share. Still, most recently, an Afghan client who received an approved asylum petition wrote her after his family’s refugee petitions were approved and thanked her for reuniting him with his wife and children. This pro bono client was part of a large family group Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada was able to assist with their immigration relief. The attorneys collectively helped reunite almost thirty members of one family who will all rebuild their lives together in the United States. Bonnie finished by saying there is no greater joy than knowing her work played a part in this reunification and someone’s new life in a safe and welcoming country.

Bonnie recently earned her doctorate in law and policy from Northeastern University. The pursuit of her doctorate assisted her in gaining the skills and knowledge she will need to work to improve the current immigration laws and policies in the United States and share those lessons with immigration policymakers in other countries.

Bonnie brings hope and happiness to those she touches through our program with her pro bono work. The Pro Bono Project is only successful because of volunteer attorneys like Bonnie.


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