Professor Monica Fennell sits in her office. Fennell works at Butler University as an adjunct professor teaching classes like Constitutional Law and Community Mediation. Photo courtesy of Maria Porter of Taft Law.
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Monica Fennell, an adjunct professor in Butler’s political science department, has built her career around “pro bono” work — the provision of law-related services to those who need them but cannot afford them. She has held multiple pro bono positions during her career and currently serves as the pro bono director at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.
Fennell has been an adjunct professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler since August 2017. She has taught Constitutional Law, Access to Justice and Poverty Law and Community Mediation.
Since Fennell’s legal background has been mostly related to civil cases, she said her favorite part about teaching is hearing students’ perspectives on a wide range of unique court cases. Each semester, she gives a midterm assignment that requires students to observe a courtroom. When they return, she is always fascinated by which components did and did not interest her students.
“I like hearing about what they see,” Fennell said. “They always see things that I’ve never seen before. Most of my experience has been in civil cases but students see a lot of criminal cases, which is not something that I myself have done a lot of. So, I like hearing their perspective on the courtroom and the dynamics that they observe.”
Senior political science major Jack Pitchford said Fennell emphasizes critical reading of the law in her classes. More specifically, she prompts her students to consider the significance of legal decisions and how they impact people on a daily basis.
“Reading for every detail gives us a better explanation of the decisions a court gives down and gives us more information about the world around us,” Pitchford said.
Chloe Meredith, a senior history and political science major, said she always appreciated Fennell’s inclusion of guest speakers from diverse legal backgrounds. Meredith said Fennell encourages each student to find their personal academic interests, so she exposes them to a wide range of concepts and studies within constitutional law. Most of all, Meredith appreciates Fennell’s professional guidance as she encourages her students to explore their career options.
“What makes Professor Fennell so amazing is that she is equally focused on education and prepping for the future,” Meredith said. “She goes above and beyond teaching students the material. She helps students explore their options, find their interests and think beyond our four short years here at Butler.”
Fennell received her bachelor’s degree in English and French from Williams College. She then attended law school at Georgetown University and, in 2007, returned to Washington D.C. to serve as a Supreme Court Fellow.
This week, Fennell is leaving for the Maldives as a Fulbright Scholar. Although this means she is not teaching at Butler this semester, she will teach at Maldives National University for 10 weeks. She will also work with the Bar Council of the Maldives to create a pro bono clearinghouse, which connects people in need of legal services with volunteer lawyers.
“In the pro bono world, we’re asking lawyers to volunteer in an area of law that is not their usual practice area,” Fennell said. “It’s often something different and so they have to learn the specifics for that particular area of the law. So I’m constantly doing trainings with lawyers and I just really like the teaching aspect of what I do as a pro bono director. I always thought it would be fun to share that with undergraduate students.”