PUBLISHED:May 14, 2021

Two graduates receive awards from the Clinical Legal Education Association


Emma Wellbaum '21 received the Outstanding Clinic Student Award and Zack Kaplan '21 received the Outstanding Externship Student Award.

Two graduating students have been chosen as Duke's recipients of annual awards from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA), the national association of clinical law faculty. The recipients were nominated by the Law School's clinical professors.

Emma Wellbaum '21
Emma Wellbaum
JD/MEM '21

Emma Wellbaum JD/MEM ’21, a student in the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, received CLEA’s Outstanding Clinic Student Award. Working primarily with statewide nonprofit NC Child, Wellbaum assisted her client in securing significant outcomes in several matters involving environmental health, including developing an online interactive tool that allows users to search for a residence to determine whether it was built with lead-based paint and thus represents a health hazard, particularly to children. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services plans to make the database publicly available on its NC Healthy Homes website.  

In addition to her work with the clinic, Wellbaum completed internships with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Environmental Law Center. She also led the Environmental Law Society’s pro bono project for two years, helping 1Ls learn to do self-directed legal research for several non-profit organizations and local governments. 

“Throughout her tenure as a student at Duke Law, Emma demonstrated an impressive level of leadership, dedication, and innovation, but her work over three semesters in the [clinic] was simply exceptional,” Wellbaum’s nomination stated. “She proved herself to be a leader both within her case teams and with other clinic students, who reported that Emma helped them find answers to difficult legal questions and worked with them to improve their writing.  She embraces challenging work and the opportunity to perform complex legal research and analysis.” 

Zack Kaplan '21
Zack Kaplan '21

Zack Kaplan ’21 received the Outstanding Externship Student Award. Kaplan completed two externships while at Duke, working with then-North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Mark Davis and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

While at the Lawyers’ Committee, Kaplan worked on a case representing peaceful marchers assaulted by police during a voting rights march, an experience that brought him “face-to-face with a range of modern civil rights issues, leaving him more committed than ever to pursuing social and racial justice work,” according to his nomination for the award. “His site supervisors (and faculty advisor) have uniformly praised his intelligence, character, common sense, communication skills, diligence, and tenacity.”

A former elementary school teacher, Kaplan also spent two semesters in the Children’s Law Clinic, where he worked on an amicus brief that was filed at the U.S. Supreme Court, represented a child with a disability, and worked in coalition with community groups dedicated to ensuring a right to education.

"Zack Kaplan has been a tremendous addition to our clinical community and our law school,” his nomination stated.