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Putting Generosity into Practice
Duane Charles Quaini, JD '70, encourages law student involvement in real casework through supporting the Mills Legal Clinic.
Asked for highlights of his Stanford Law School education, Duane Quaini, JD '70, doesn't hesitate. "The most memorable part of my years at Stanford in terms of my education was a relationship that I formed with Professor Gerald Gunther," one of the leading constitutional scholars in the United States. Quaini remained in contact with Gunther throughout the rest of the professor's life.
"That has always struck me as one of the great advantages of a law school like Stanford," Quaini says, "the combination of dazzling intellects on the faculty plus accessibility."
Throughout his own career, Quaini has worked to help others obtain the education, guidance, and practical experience that enable success in the real world. "Mentorship is critical," he notes, "because it teaches you a great deal about practice."
Quaini's law practice began with a clerkship at the Chicago-based firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal the summer after his second year of law school. After graduating with his JD in 1970, he went on to spend 40 years with the firm, traveling across 41 states working primarily in corporate litigation, before serving as Sonnenschein's first full-time chairman from 1997 to 2007 and retiring in 2009. During his tenure at the firm, he found time for a mix of pro bono cases as well, and hired the firm's first full-time partner responsible for pro bono operations.
"That kind of work is incredibly fulfilling, whatever the case is," Quaini says. "I love doing it. You help people who really need help, or you establish principles that are important, which in turn help people."
Quaini's deep commitment to giving back is made visible through his extensive service to the community, as well as his law school alma mater. He faithfully served on the SLS Board of Visitors for more than a decade, including serving as chairman for three years, in addition to actively participating on the Dean's Advisory Council and his Class of 1970 reunion committee. He is also closely involved with a number of other philanthropic organizations, such as the Les Turner Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Foundation, Equip for Equality (a large provider of services to the disabled), and Cook County Justice for Children (an organization focused primarily on improving the local juvenile court system), to name a few.
While keeping busy with work and volunteering, Quaini and his wife, Christine, have also made a difference through their generous financial support. They have been dedicated to the law school over the years through the Duane and Christine A. Quaini Law School Fund, providing funding for priorities determined by the dean. Most recently, they included Stanford Law School in their estate, specifically to support the Mills Legal Clinic.
"One thing that my legal career has shown is the value of clinical legal education—getting law students out into the profession, in whatever aspect," he says. "Actually doing things, as opposed to simply sitting in a classroom, is enormously important preparation for practice."
The Mills Legal Clinic, founded in 2005, is the umbrella organization that houses 11 unique clinical programs, giving law students the opportunity to spend a full academic quarter working on real cases in areas such as environmental law, criminal defense, Supreme Court litigation, intellectual property, and immigrants' rights.
"The experiential learning environment unique to the Mills Legal Clinic is a remarkable gift to our law students, and to their clients," says Juliet Brodie, the associate dean of clinical education and the David and Stephanie Mills Director of the Mills Legal Clinic. "Working under the close supervision of our accomplished clinical faculty, students benefit from the opportunity to apply legal concepts acquired in the classroom to real-world situations. The clients they work with—both locally and globally—benefit from receiving legal assistance from some of the brightest law students in the nation. The coming together of these two enterprises—pedagogy and service—is the beauty of clinical education."
In talking with students who participate in the Mills Legal Clinic, Quaini says his impressions "are that [the students] are getting out of the experience precisely what they should be: a feel of what it's like to be a lawyer as opposed to a law student." Quaini's generosity promises to pay forward in kind, through these students. "Many of them are developing a passion for pro bono representation, and a real understanding of a lawyer's obligation to give back," he says.
"Without the law school, I would not have lived the life I've lived," Quaini says. "One of the things I've tried to do is give back—and besides, the law school is an incredibly intellectually stimulating place. Spending time there, with the deans, the faculty, and the students, is energizing. It's truly a labor of love."