SIULAW alum Emily Kudek (’20) is featured on the University’s “This is SIU” blog for her pro bono work

June 26, 2020 , by Pete Rosenbery


The opportunity for experiential learning is one of the significant components that SIU School of Law students receive.

Emily Kudek is one of the examples of taking full advantage of that opportunity. With a desire to one day become a prosecutor, Kudek, who is from West Bend, Wisconsin, worked more than 850 hours in district attorney’s offices in two states during her three years at SIU Carbondale. The May 2020 law school graduate earned the law school’s 2020 Pro Bono Award.

“Pro bono” is a shortened form of the Latin phrase “pro bono public,” which means “for the good of the people.” The term typically refers to legal work performed as a public service and free of charge or at a reduced fee.

“The thing that I enjoyed most about the pro bono work was being able to get comfortable in the courtroom, speaking to judges and other attorneys and just seeing how the daily operations worked in the office,” Kudek said. “There’s a lot of things about law a book in school won’t teach you and the experience is something I think will really help me in the long run.”

Busy in two states

Kudek said she began her pro bono work the summer after her first year of law school and completed it her last semester after finishing her hours needed for externship credit. She is now preparing to take the Wisconsin bar exam in July. The value of experiential learning is just as important as textbook material, she said.

“You can know all the laws in the world, but if you don’t know how to apply them to real life, or how to talk to a judge, you won’t make it very far,” she said.

Working in both the Brown County District Attorney’s Office in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Williamson County State’s Attorney’s Office in Marion, Illinois, Kudek explained she initially did a lot of behind-the-scenes work with research and reviewing police reports and observing court before obtaining her student practice license, or 711 in Illinois.

She then appeared on the record and participated in a variety of court hearings, including motion hearings, initial appearances and conducted two bench trials in Brown County. In Williamson County, she focused on conducting a few preliminary hearings, which are used to establish probable cause for prosecutors to move forward with a criminal case.

Read the complete story here.