Miami Law Alumna Receives the Robert L. Shevin Public Service Award

BY:  
CREATED:  

Wendy Robbins, J.D. '97

From her earliest days in law school, Wendy L. Robbins, JD ’97, knew that advocacy on behalf of marginalized clients was her calling. Throughout her career, she has dedicated herself to helping families navigate conflict and work towards stability. The Dade County Bar Association recently honored Robbins with the Robert L. Shevin Public Service Award for her unwavering commitment to fighting for some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Robbins, a Senior Supervising Attorney with Dade Legal Aid, has advocated for children and families in Miami since 1998.

In addition to her more traditional family law and domestic violence practice, Robbins leads a number of innovative initiatives to improve stability and opportunities for foster youth aging out of the foster-care system. For example, she represents former foster youth appealing the improper denial of educational stipends. These funds are essential to enabling youth who have no family to pay for college attain an education. Robbins also represents individuals, typically family members, who seek to become guardians for foster youth who have a disability and are aging out of the system.

“It is rewarding to be able to help secure a safe environment for foster youth with disabilities to be able to live out the rest of their lives and for someone to take care of their medical, financial, and other needs. I find it rewarding to help people who feel like the world is crumbling before them. I am able to help lift them up,” said Robbins.

Robbins took full advantage of her time in law school and was very actively involved in the community. “I thoroughly enjoyed what Miami Law had to offer,” said Robbins. She was a Senator on the SBA, a Dean’s Fellow, President of the Society of Bar and Gavel, Director of Equity Playhouse, and the Alumni Liaison for the Entertainment & Sports Law Society, Robbins is a member of Iron Arrow, the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami.

Robbins is always looking for new and creative ways to help clients, within the confines of the law. For example, after a woman was denied Social Security benefits for her child because paternity of the biological father had not been established prior to his death, Robbins took on the challenging case. Robbins invoked the equitable nature of the court and successfully petitioned the court to release a sample of the father’s blood to a DNA lab for testing. The test was a match and the child then became eligible to receive the Social Security benefits.

“I view my role as providing more than just holistic services—I try to find ways to help and assist people even if there is not anything concrete in the law,” said Robbins. “If you can find a way to do what you need to do legally and within the spirit of the law, you have helped a family immensely. You will be satisfied and so will your client,” said Robbins.

Robbins’ passion for helping others grew out of a devotion to her community. She had recently graduated from FIU when Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida. Her home and community were devastated. After helping her family protect their home and property, she realized that she wanted to help others too. She knew that law school would give her the tools she needed to make an impact. Wanting to stay close to home to continue to help rebuilding efforts, Miami Law was the ideal place for her to study law.

Robbins recalls especially enjoying Negotiation Competitions and Mock Trial. She found Miami Law professors to be engaging, and particularly enjoyed courses with the late Professor Richard Hausler. She interned with the Put Something Back Project at Dade Legal Aid, volunteered with the State’s Attorney’s Office working on Arthur hearings, and was a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow where she spent a summer working at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach assisting mainly with family and consumer cases. Robbins’ experiences working with the Put Something Back Project and Legal Aid Society inspired her to pursue a career in legal services after graduation.

For law students considering pursuing a career in family law or child advocacy, Robbins advises that “family law is extremely rewarding and demanding, but you broaden your skillset and knowledge of the law. It is a great experience especially for a new attorney wanting to gain immediate litigation experience.”

Robbins said, “I love what I do” and it shows through in her dedication and commitment.