MORGANTOWN – The West Virginia State Bar and Legal Aid awarded the 2016 Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award to professor Marjorie McDiarmid in recognition of her staunched work as a public defender and her support of legal aid. 

McDiarmid attributes the award to the law students working with her in West Virginia University’s Clinical Law Program of which she is the director. Founded in 1976, the program has dedicated more than 600,000 hours of pro bono aid to more than 2,000 clients and provided training to more than 1,000 of the university’s law students. It is most notably known for its work in domestic violence cases.   

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“It’s basically a recognition of the work that all of the clinical law students have done up here on behalf of domestic violence victims. I’m the supervisor but they’re the ones who have done good representation. It’s gratifying to see their work recognized,” McDiarmid told The West Virginia Record.

From an early age, McDiarmid decided that pursuing law and helping the underrepresented was her mission in life.

“I decided in high school I wanted to be a lawyer mainly because I thought that there were people who got the short end of the stick and needed representation,” said McDiarmid.

Indeed, having received her juris doctor from Columbia University and her master of laws from Harvard, McDiarmid has an extensive and impressive career. She worked with a multitude of organizations across the nation from the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York to the Public Defender Association in Seattle. McDiarmid has even served as a judge pro tempore between 1979 and 1980.

Her calling, however, appears to be passing down her knowledge to new generations of attorneys. She has been lecturing and holding seminars at various law schools since 1973 and was appointed as Steptoe & Johnson Professor of Law & Technology at West Virginia University in 1986, leading to her aforementioned current position. Working with students and preparing them for clients and courtrooms has become her new passion.  

“Practicing law is a fascinating thing professionally. It’s one that if it’s done well, it does a lot of good for people and if it’s not done well, people suffer because of that. And so, trying to teach law students how to do it well and how to do it on behalf of people who need the help is something I wanted to do for a long time.”

The award was presented to her during an annual meeting of the West Virginia State Bar held in Charleston.

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