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Outstanding Public Interest Law Student of the Year

Public Interest Law Section

The State Bar’s Public Interest Law Section encourages attorneys to provide public interest services, promotes public interest issues, and enhances the viability of public interest law. It presents awards recognizing law students, legal workers, and lawyers.

The Outstanding Public Interest Law Student of the Year is awarded for demonstrated commitment to working in the public interest and helping others. It recognizes exceptional public interest volunteer work or activism in the community at large or the law school community.

This year, the recipients of the Outstanding Public Interest Student of the Year awards are Taylor Dahlke-Forman from Marquette University Law School and Tessa Henson from the University of Wisconsin Law School.​

During her studies at Marquette University Law School, Taylor Dahlke-Forman has demonstrated a strong commitment to working with marginalized people, including those with disabilities, formerly incarcerated people, and survivors of trauma. Last summer, she received the Public Interest Law Society Fellowship for working with the Student Legal Aid project at Legal Action of Wisconsin, assisting with pardon applications, expungements, bankruptcy, and driver's license recovery. She has also interned with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee and Disability Rights Wisconsin and worked part time as a research assistant at Legal Action, where she co-authored an article on pardons in Wisconsin.

Upon her graduation in May of 2023, Taylor will join the Health & Wealth Division at Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee as a Staff Attorney, focusing on estate planning, Social Security, public benefits, and pardon applications.

As a first-generation college student and law student at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Tessa Henson committed herself to a legal career devoted to serving others, challenging the status quo, and encouraging social change. Tessa has worked with the Neighborhood Law Clinic (NLC) at UW Law School, which provides direct representation to underrepresented people in housing and employment cases.

She is described by her nominator, Attorney Mitch, as “brilliant, highly skilled, compassionate, and professional" and as someone with “truly exceptional aptitude for research, writing, and persuasive presentations." ​

In June 2022, Henson joined Legal Action of Wisconsin, where she helped provide free legal services to low-income individuals in nine counties across Wisconsin. In 2023, Ms. Henson served as a project assistant to Professor Bernadette Atuahene, supporting her work combating property tax injustice. She has also twice been elected as co-president of the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Law Students Association and has served on several committees that aim to combat institutional inequality.