Nearly 200 Students Participate in Pro Bono Activities During Winter Break

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In keeping with UNC School of Law's tradition of public service, 189 students from UNC School of Law spent part of their Winter Break participating in pro bono work. Students volunteered 2,980 pro bono hours with 63 organizations. A team of 21 students ran a free legal clinic for members of the Cherokee Reservation in conjunction with Legal Aid of North Carolina Jan. 2-4.

Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs Sylvia Novinsky and the student-directed Pro Bono Board – in coordination with Legal Aid of Sylva, N.C., and the UNC School of Law alumni who serve on the Cherokee Tribal Court – developed a three-day trip to provide students exposure to legal needs on the reservation as well as an opportunity to learn more about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee nation.

The first day of the trip was dedicated to training the students on the details of Cherokee tribal law and its interconnectivity with North Carolina state law. On the second day students helped 26 clients with issues ranging from divorce to custody to predatory lending.

“I was so impressed at how insightful, thoughtful, hard-working and compassionate our students are,” says Novinsky. “I saw their confidence grow with each client meeting as they worked through complicated legal issues with their supervising attorneys.”

“It was the first time I ever sat down face-to-face with a client to discuss their situation, and, even though I didn't realize it until Dean Novinsky congratulated me afterwards, the first time I had ever filed papers with a court,” says Nathan R. Creger 1L. “It was incredibly satisfying to do something so tangible to help people solve their problems, and a great reminder of why the law actually matters to people.”

The final day of the trip included a meeting with the treasurer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee and a trip to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

“We are so grateful to our alumni Judge Saunooke, Judge Martin and Chief Justice Boyum of the Cherokee Tribal Court, as well as the Sylva office of Legal Aid of N.C., for their patience, lessons, time and support for our students' learning,” says Novinsky.

You can learn more about Carolina Law students' experiences on the trip to Cherokee at their blog.

-January 21, 2013

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