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Villanovan John Rafferty VSL ’12 receives Super Lawyers first annual Pro Bono Award

Rafferty lauded for his work as an anti-trafficking advocate

Villanova, Pa. – John Rafferty, a third-year student and Public Interest Scholar at Villanova University School of Law (VSL), is a recipient of a newly created Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award. The award honors legal professionals, students and institutions that exemplify excellence in the practice of law through offering volunteer legal services to the poor, disadvantaged or exploited. One of eight recipients, Rafferty was lauded for his exemplary work as an anti-trafficking advocate.

As a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Rafferty witnessed first-hand the horror of human trafficking. From the sexual exploitation of women in southeast Asia to the debt bondage of foreign laborers in the Middle East, Rafferty was incensed by what he saw. So he chose to fight injustice by becoming an attorney who could be a voice for those who had none. Rafferty chose Villanova University School of Law, known for its commitment to serving the disenfranchised members of the community through promoting social justice, to prepare him to battle the injustices of trafficking. Working to change what he saw overseas, he is dedicating his time and legal talents to anti-trafficking advocacy and training in the United States and around the world.  

In two short years, Rafferty completed over 300 hours of non-credited, unpaid pro bono service, including giving all of his spring and winter breaks to service. Highlights of his numerous outreach efforts include work with the U.N. International Organization for Migration’s Anti-Human Trafficking Team in Quito, Ecuador; leadership of a VSL spring break service trip to provide legal aid to central Florida farm workers; and work with the Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Coalition to start a Prostitution First Offender Diversionary Program.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award and recognize that it is a reflection of the public interest spirit embodied by the students here at Villanova,” said Rafferty. “I came to law school because of my frustration with a broken system that makes foreign workers employed in low-wage sectors vulnerable to force, fraud and coercion. When I am helping others feel valued and cared for through my own sacrifices of time and money, I know that I am sharing a love that has the power to change the world.”

“John Rafferty exemplifies what it is to be a true Villanovan,” said John Gotanda, Dean of the Villanova University School of Law. “The Villanova University School of Law is committed to promoting the common good and we encourage our students to play an active role in positively shaping the world around them. Where others might have turned a blind eye to the atrocities that he saw, John used his experiences as an impetus for change. These are the type of individual actions that have become synonymous with our students. We are proud of John’s outstanding achievements and his deserved honor as a recipient of Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award.”

The eight recipients of Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award include practicing attorneys, law firms, law students and law programs. The winners, and their respective rankings, were chosen by a review committee which evaluated each application based on legal effort, personal contribution, inspiration, future effort, time frame, obstacles and innovation. Law students and law programs were evaluated on the additional factors of community outreach and leadership. In addition to the honor, each winner receives a cash award and editorial coverage in a 2012 edition of a Super Lawyers magazine, also published on To learn more about the Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award, visit

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multiphasic and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. The Super Lawyers lists are published in Super Lawyers magazines and in leading city and regional magazines across the country. Super Lawyers magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information, go to

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. The Villanova University School of Law, located on Villanova’s picturesque suburban campus, provides broad-based legal education. Its award-winning clinics and Lawyering Together Program provide free legal aid to those in need. The School is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the American Association of Law Schools. Notable alumni include:  Hon. Edward Rendell (Former Governor, Pa.), Hon. Marjorie Rendell (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit), Richard Trumka (President, AFL-CIO), Joseph T. Sebastianelli (President and CEO, Thomas Jefferson Health Systems), Jeffrey S. Moorad (CEO, San Diego Padres) and Michael Holston (Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Hewlett-Packard Company).