Bruce Pfaff '79 said that he wanted to express his gratitude to UC Hastings by establishing the generous scholarship program.
Since 2014, two Pfaff Trial Lawyer Scholarships are awarded each year to UC Hastings students interested in becoming civil trial lawyers. Clifton Smoot '15 and Zachary Spear '15 “were the clear winners this year,” said Pfaff, who has practiced in that field for 36 years. The selection committee evaluates whether the applicants have proven ability and desire to become competent trial lawyers and awards a minimum of two $10,000 scholarships each year to UC Hastings students.
Clifton Smoot '15 is already jumping into the field. He’s joining the Bogaards Davis law firm in August, headed up by UC Hastings alumna Deborah Bogaards ‘81. “The UC Hastings trial team really got me to where I am,” he said. “The experience helped gel my academic and political interest in tort litigation, and challenged me to develop a more professional level of skill,” he said. Smoot said the Pfaff award will ease his debt burden and allow him to choose plaintiff’s side work. “To have Mr. Pfaff give this level of support allows me to focus on becoming a better trial lawyer.”
Zach Spear ‘15 has also excelled in his career at UC Hastings, and on the moot court competition team, although his path to get here was atypical. After receiving an undergraduate journalism degree, he worked as a professional broadcaster for two seasons in minor league baseball. He’s also been a substitute teacher and a package deliverer. “I’ve learned a lot about communication from live broadcasting, I’ve learned a lot about patience from teaching, and I’ve learned a lot about hard work and humanity by delivering packages every day, rain or shine, to everyday people’s doorsteps,” Spear said. “Someday I’m going to learn how to put all of that together to win the best possible outcomes for my clients. To me, this scholarship says, keep going, keep working, you’re getting closer, and I’m very thankful for that.”
Bruce Pfaff has been a trial lawyer since 1979, representing people injured or killed by wrongful conduct. He started his own practice, Pfaff, Gill & Ports, in Chicago in 1991. In six cases, his clients have each received more than $10 million in jury verdicts. He is one of a handful of Illinois lawyers who have had such trial success. In addition to representing clients and managing the law firm, Pfaff writes Friend of the Court briefs for the Illinois Trial Lawyers' Association and for the American Board of Trial Advocates. He has been inducted as a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates.