The Elliott Milstein Award for Professional Excellence
In honor of our founder, Professor Emeritus Elliott Milstein, the Clinic has established the Elliott Milstein Award for Professional Excellence. The Milstein Award is bestowed annually upon an alumnus/a of the WCL Clinical Program whose lawyering skills and values embody the highest standards of the profession, and whose career reflects core principles of the Clinical Program, including client-centeredness, reflective lawyering, seeking justice, and a commitment to training law students and junior lawyers.
At our 50th Anniversary Alumni Reception, the Clinic presented the 2022 Milstein Award to Rebecca Goldfrank '04, inaugural Legal Director at the DC Affordable Law Firm. In nominating Rebecca, fellow WCL alumna Gabby Majewski '08 noted, "Rebecca has dedicated her entire professional career to the pursuit of justice for families and individuals from low-income households navigating inequitable systems and systemic societal oppressions. She has worn many hats as a lawyer and leader, served with a range of legal services organizations, gained mastery of many critically important areas of civil legal practice, and worked tirelessly to teach, train, and inspire new and rising attorneys in various capacities. Throughout each of her professional experiences, Rebecca’s work with and on behalf of those most deserving of high-quality legal representation has been defined by the care, compassion, integrity, and passion she brings to everything she does."
2021: Runa Rajagopal '05
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Clinic was a bit late in presenting the 2021 Milstein Award, but the awardee, Runa Rajagopal '05, was worth the wait when we presented her with the award in May 2022. Runa is the Managing Director of the Civil Action Practice at The Bronx Defenders, where, as described by her nominator and former Clinic partner, Monique Cole, she "oversees a practice of around 45 attorneys and advocates in defending against the full range of civil consequences that arise out of an arrest, the removal of children, or out of non-citizen detention, including evictions, termination of crucial benefits, suspension of employment, forfeiture of property and police misconduct, and to provide access to basic civil legal needs."
2020: Cora Tekach '91
Tekach is the founder of Tekach Law Firm in Washington, DC and was named a SuperLawyer in 2019, 2020 and 2021. She has devoted her professional career to immigration law and immigrants’ rights, beginning her legal journey with a public interest organization representing immigration detainees on the Texas/Mexico border. Prior to Tekach founding her law firm in 2008, she also worked at an international law firm and was a shareholder with immigration boutique Maggio & Kattar. From 2003-2005, Tekach worked for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) as a liaison between AILA’s membership and U.S. government officials. Tekach also served as an adjunct professor of law at the Catholic University of America from 2005-2014 and at the Washington College of Law from 2016-2018.
Along with serving on the Board of Directors of Ayuda, Inc., Tekach has served on a number of AILA committees and is a former Chair of the Washington, DC Chapter of AILA. Tekach also served as a member of the DC Bar Client Security Fund for four years, including Chair of the committee in 2014.
Tekach is the annual editor of The Immigration Act of 1990 Today, a leading treatise on immigration and nationality law, has authored and edited many other publications on immigration law, and has presented immigration topics to governmental and professional organizations, embassies, student associations, churches, and immigrant groups as well as on television, radio, and other media.
Among her many acts of service to the community, Tekach spent 10 years as a member of the Board of Directors of Rosemount Center/El Centro Rosemount, a dual language Head Start/Early Head Start Center located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood DC. She has also served as an advisor to the Hermanas Unidas (Sisters United) Community Education Project, the country’s first grassroots leadership development, community education, and empowerment project for Latina survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.
2019: Randi Mandelbaum '88
Professor Randi Mandelbaum is a Clinical Professor of Law, the Annamay Sheppard Scholar, and the Director of the Child Advocacy Clinic.
Professor Mandelbaum earned a B.S. from Brandeis University, a J.D. from American University Washington College of Law, and an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center. She has devoted her career to working with children and families and has extensive experience in clinical legal education. Professor Mandelbaum began her legal career as a staff attorney at the Child Advocacy Unit of the Legal Aid Bureau in Baltimore, representing children in matters involving child abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, custody, visitation, public benefits, special education, and foster care placement. She then went to the Georgetown University Law Center where, with another professor, she created a clinical program addressing the legal needs of families living in poverty. Prior to coming to Rutgers, she was an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she taught in the Civil Justice Clinic, Hastings’ clinical program.
As founding director of the Rutgers Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC), Professor Mandelbaum designed and developed this unique clinical program, which is aimed at comprehensively addressing the needs of low-income children and their families. The CAC provides representation to foster children, undocumented immigrant children, and low income children with disabilities. The CAC also sponsors a statewide community education project (the “Aging Out Project”) aimed at educating older foster youth about their rights and entitlements. Professor Mandelbaum’s scholarship focuses on the legal representation of children, the rights of siblings to maintain their relationships, issues concerning undocumented immigrant children, and child welfare law and law and policy.
2018: Jonathan Shapiro '74
Jonathan Shapiro is a Professor of Practice at Washington and Lee Law School and has practiced criminal law in the federal and state courts for the past 45 years. He has been listed for years in Washingtonian Magazine's survey of best criminal lawyers. Among his clients were accused CIA spy Harold Nicholson and accused NSA spy Brian Regan. Along with his partner Peter Greenspun, he represented "Beltway Sniper" John Allen Muhammad. He received the 2001 Peter Cicchino Alumni Award for Outstanding Advocacy In The Public Interest Within The United States from The American University Washington College of Law and the 2017 Impacting Justice Award from the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition. Mr. Shapiro was previously a clinical instructor at the Washington College of Law, where he was also the director of the Institutionalized Persons Clinic.