Law Alumnus Receives Award

Felix Cao, J.D. '11, honored for providing pro bono legal services to the poor.
Felix Cao, J.D. '11, honored for providing pro bono legal services to the poor.

Young alumnus Felix Cao ’11 received the 2011 Louisiana State Bar Association’s Law Student Pro Bono Award during a ceremony on May 24, 2011, at the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans. The award is given annually in Louisiana to a student from an American Bar Association-accredited law school who has demonstrated dedication to providing legal services to the poor. Cao was nominated by Davida Finger, assistant clinical professor in the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, and Andy Piacun, VITA site coordinator and budget director for the College of Law, for his volunteer work with underserved populations.

In addition to volunteering with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and mentoring student entrepreneurs and small businesses, Cao has also assisted Vietnamese fishermen in the aftermath of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As a third-year law student, Cao joined the Vietnamese-American Volunteer Law Corps, a coalition of 12 legal bar associations, legal aid, and other nonprofit organizations established following the BP oil spill in April 2010, to help this minority group. The law corps conducted four legal education clinics in three Gulf states—Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama—and served more than 100 Vietnamese community leaders and members.

“Due to the fact that most, if not all, of the claimants we served did not read, write, or speak English, many were cautioned through rumors not to accept interim payments because it would jeopardize their future claims and/or preclude them from filing suit against BP and other defendants,” Cao says. “This was untrue and detrimental to the claimants. I had informed claimants to be mindful of what they were signing, to obtain an interpreter or an attorney when necessary, and to seek help from local organizations assisting with the claims process.”

Cao also assisted New York Times reporters Campbell Robertson and John Schwartz with their investigation of predatory lawyering practices following the BP oil spill. Cao was featured in their April 18 article, “Many Hit by Spill Now Feel Caught in Claim Process.”

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