Maine Association for Public Interest Law announces inaugural award

PORTLAND, ME — The Maine Association for Public Interest Law (MAPIL)  is pleased to announce the first annual MAPIL Excellence in Public Interest Award. The student-led organization at the University of Maine School of Law is dedicated to the promotion of public interest and pro bono lawyering. The award will be conferred annually to a Maine Law alumnus who has dedicated a substantial part of their career to public interest law and embodies Maine Law’s foundational principle of increasing justice for all. MAPIL leadership will present the award at the beginning of the 36th MAPIL Annual Auction, its primary fundraising event. Proceeds from the auction fund public interest fellowship opportunities for law students that would otherwise be unpaid. 

Barbara Taylor

This year’s auction will take place at The Maine Center, 300 Fore Street, Portland on March 21. Doors open at 4:30 pm and the program begins at 5:30 pm with presentation of the award. A silent auction will run concurrently with the live auction. 

“The MAPIL Executive Board has seen the immense need for public interest attorneys in Maine but a relative lack of formal recognition of that work. Maine Law has recently created the Public Interest and Social Justice Certificate Program to bridge some of that gap and create formal supports for those interested in this field,” Emily Nyman, second-year law student and MAPIL Executive Board member, said. “We wanted to create an award to honor those who have taken their passion for public interest law out into the real world and made a career supporting access to justice.”

The inaugural awardee is Barbara Taylor, who graduated from Maine Law in 2004. Following law school, Barbara clerked in the Superior Court and then joined the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project as one of three full-time staff attorneys where she eventually became a senior staff attorney. In this role she served low-income Maine immigrant clients state-wide with consultations, outreach, and direct representation in multiple areas of immigration law. In 2016, she began working as a contract attorney for the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services (MCILS) providing training and consultation to Maine’s rostered criminal defense attorneys in matters of immigration law, the immigration consequences of criminal charges, and defense strategy. As one of Maine’s experts in “crimmigration,” she works with MCILS attorneys representing indigent non-citizens to ensure they have the tools needed to understand and avoid immigration risks to their noncitizen clients. In 2018, she returned half-time to ILAP to create ILAP’s Rural Maine Project. Until 2023, she traveled thousands of miles throughout Maine, mostly in Washington and Aroostook Counties, to provide consultations, outreach, and training to immigrant community groups, seasonal workers, service providers, and lawyers. (And was gifted a lovely leather motorcycle jacket emblazoned “Road Lawyer.”)

Today, Barbara continues to be on call to support and collaborate with Maine’s court-appointed criminal defense lawyers and noncitizen defendants through MCILS. She will also begin offering pro bono consulting and training on immigration laws and strategy to attorneys who volunteer through the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project assisting non-citizens in Maine in family court and protection from abuse matters.