July 27, 2017- Heather Crabbe, assistant dean of students at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law, is one of just 40 young lawyers the American Bar Association is recognizing nationally this year for professional accomplishments.
Ms. Crabbe has received the “On the Rise−Top 40 Young Lawyers Award” of the ABA Young Lawyers Division that recognizes achievement, innovation, and leadership. The recognition of her accomplishments includes her work as assistant dean at Chase, as a Kentucky public defender prior to becoming an administrator, and as an entrepreneur in a virtual reality training program she is developing.
At Chase: Among her responsibilities, Ms. Crabbe organizes the NKU Chase Multicultural Law Academy to introduce high school students from diverse racial and ethnic groups to possible careers in law, is a mentor to law school and undergraduate students, and has coached the Black Law Students Association’s Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Team. “I am where I am today because people believed in me, encouraged me, and always extended a helping hand. Being part of Chase is an opportunity for me to help others fulfill their dreams of becoming lawyers. Everyone at Chase wants to see our students succeed,” she says.
As a public defender: Ms. Crabbe had a reputation for being a tireless defender of clients and having a willingness to make her training in death-penalty cases available for trials outside her assigned geographic area. In one non-capital case, her pursuit of a bond reduction for a man she believed was improperly charged with attempted murder was so exhaustive the charges were eventually dropped without a trial. Because no social worker was available to her as a public defender, she assumed responsibility for finding approved treatment anyplace she could in Kentucky for heroin-addicted clients at a time an epidemic in addiction was beginning to explode. “Society sometimes jumps to a conclusion before the prosecution has even had to prove its case, rendering ‘innocent until proven guilty’ hollow words. When that happened to my clients, I sometimes was the only person who would even take their calls. Safeguarding their right – really, everyone’s right − to a fair trial is one of the greatest callings in being a lawyer,” Ms. Crabbe says.
As an entrepreneur: Ms. Crabbe and a business partner are developing a 360-degree virtual reality program that can be used to enhance relationships between law enforcement and community individuals by allowing them to experience simulated interactions from the perspective of the other person. “My colleague and I believe that if people can walk in someone else’s shoes and see things through their eyes (which this simulation will allow users to do), that can lead to deeper conversations about empathy and understanding. This is key in addressing the narrative of mistrust that has dominated national headlines the past few years,” she says.
Ms. Crabbe was graduated from Chase in 2007, and worked for six years as a public defender in the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. She joined the Chase administration as outreach officer in 2014, to focus on increasing diversity in the student body. Her efforts, which included visits to historically black colleges and numerous telephone calls to prospective students, helped enroll the most diverse entering classes in Chase’s history in 2014 and 2015. She was named assistant dean of students in 2015.
“We are very proud of Heather in receiving this notable recognition,” Chase Dean Jeffrey A. Standen says. “We look forward to her continued success as Chase’s assistant dean of students.”
Chase College of Law offers full-time and part-time programs of study, and has an enrollment of about 400 students on the NKU campus in Highland Heights, Ky. In addition to traditional classes, students can participate in the college’s W. Bruce Lunsford Academy for Law, Business + Technology, designed to prepare them for multi-discipline approaches to practicing law, and can gain practical experience in clinical programs in which they work with real clients. Classes in the part-time evening division meet two evenings a week and some half-day Saturdays to allow students to balance careers and studies or to commute from outside Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.