Law school welcomes Karena Rahall as Access to Justice Institute leader

February 03, 2017

Karena RahallFormer clinic professor and social justice champion Karena Rahall has returned to Seattle University School of Law to lead the Access to Justice Institute (ATJI) in the recently elevated role of assistant dean.

"I believe Karena Rahall to be exactly the right person to take on this leadership role," said Dean Annette E. Clark '89. "She has an exciting vision for ATJI and a lifelong commitment to access to justice."

Based on the importance of this leadership position, both within ATJI and the law school, Dean Clark changed the role from director to assistant dean. This decision also reflects Rahall's considerable skills and experience.

Rahall served as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle U from 2012-15, primarily teaching the Youth Advocacy Clinic. She received strong student evaluations for her thoughtful supervision, mentoring, and guidance of clinic students in representing their clients in all phases of juvenile criminal proceedings.  Her scholarly work has focused on privatization and policing and she has also worked with colleagues on access-to-justice issues and skills-based educational efforts.

"I am thrilled to be back at Seattle U with colleagues and students that I love," Rahall said. "It has always felt like home."

Rahall said it's more important than ever to work with community partners and help students find work that is fulfilling, inspiring, and effective. 

"We are living in unpredictable times but the momentum is strong to confront the challenges so many in our community are facing," she said. "I want to connect students to the many incredible organizers, scholars, and advocates who fight for justice every day and I'm thrilled to be in a position to make it happen."

For the past year, Karena has been the inaugural executive director of the Court Square Law Project, a legal residency project at the City University of New York School of Law. Court Square is an innovative effort to help bridge the access-to-justice gap through training and mentoring new law school graduates to provide legal services to moderate means clients. 

Rahall comes to the assistant deanship with more than 15 years of practice and program management experience.  She practiced as a criminal defense lawyer in state and federal courts, as both a public defender and as a solo practitioner in a firm she founded.  Prior to that, she was the deputy director of International Legal Foundation, an NGO headquartered in New York, where she supervised a large staff locally and overseas for a program that instituted criminal defense services in post-conflict countries including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.  

She received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the New York City Bar Association for outstanding leadership in pro bono death penalty work and the Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding leadership in capital defense representation, and she's been active in the New York City Bar Association LGBT and Criminal Law committees.