Pro Bono Program Alumni Newsletter

Pro Bono Program Newsletter: Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pro Bono Program Update

This month, the Pro Bono Program marked National Celebrate Pro Bono Week with a diverse set of activities! We hosted a networking session and breakfast for alumni and students, held a fair for student groups that engage in pro bono to share that work with the student body, and performed 20 hours of work at the first Pop Up Pro Bono of the year! Throughout the week, we also asked members of the law school community to pose for snapshots with signs describing what Pro Bono meant to them, and by the end of the week, we assembled nearly 200 photos into a quilt now on display in the law school.

The Program also took twelve students on a Fall Break Trip to provide durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and living will documents for cancer patients and caregivers at the Hayworth Cancer Center, a service of UNC Hospitals. The students traveled to High Point, interviewing and executing documents for eight patients in one day.

If you would like to know more about the program or the photographs you see here, please feel free to visit our website. Thank you for your continued interest in the Pro Bono Program!

Sincerely,

James Wudel
Pro Bono Alumni Outreach Coordinator

Student Group Spotlight

Name and Description of Group

VALOR, Veterans Advocacy Legal Organization, is a UNC School of Law student organization dedicated to serving Veterans. No military experience necessary, just a willingness to assist.

Our goals are:

  • Serve: Provide pro bono legal services to Veterans in the community
  • Educate: Provide community outreach and education
  • Connect: Build a community of military affiliated students and supporters

What do your current Pro Bono projects look like?

This school year, VALOR has participated in a two-day expunction clinic for Veterans in conjunction with Duke Law School and Legal Aid of NC. Also, VALOR assisted Veterans in reviewing and developing their cases to request discharge upgrades during a two-day fall break project. We have upcoming remote opportunities over winter break, as well as Know your Rights presentations on the horizon to better educate Veterans on what rights they have and how to seek benefits, services, and legal assistance. This coming spring break will also be our second annual pro bono trip to Asheville, NC, where we will meet with Veterans facing homelessness to screen for discharge upgrade eligibility.

How has your Pro Bono work benefited your members?

VALOR’s pro bono opportunities allow our members to gain practical experience while also providing a meaningful legal service to our community and to the individual Veterans we serve. Pro bono opportunities give students a chance to meet and learn from practicing attorneys who sponsor and partner with our group, as well as time to get to know other law students outside of the classroom. Students also learn firsthand about issues that impact Veterans. Pro bono opportunities such as ours also instill in our members from the beginning how important and valuable pro bono work is to better promote a career long dedication to seeking out ways to serve one’s community.

In particular, what skills do students acquire through the group’s Pro Bono projects?

VALOR’s pro bono opportunities have allowed our members to step outside of the classroom and gain some practical experience in client counseling, effective note taking, case strategy, and brief writing.

What challenges do you face in completing Pro Bono work? What strategies do you employ to overcome those obstacles?

One of the biggest challenges with helping Veterans seeking discharge upgrades is that it is a long and multi-step process. There is a lot of documentation that has to be submitted, part of which involves requesting all records from the military and waiting for those to come in. Sometimes we have to request letters of recommendation, seek medical records, or other corroboration that may be from many years prior and from places and people who may no longer be around. In addition to the challenges of compiling all of this data, this timeline can mean that projects do not have an immediate end product or tangible reward, and can take multiple cycles of students working on parts of a project across a span of time. Some of the best ways we have learned to adapt is to ensure that we have adequate training each time we have a group of students pick up a Veteran’s case file to make sure nothing gets misunderstood or lost in the transition. Having the same lead attorney sponsor for the majority of our projects, as well as now having an on-site Veterans’ specialist at UNC Law with the new clinic, provides a great deal of stability, consistency, and resources that helps piece much of this together.

Highlights from the Month!

Pro Bono Quilt
A quilt of snapshots of nearly 200 members of the UNC Law Community saying what Pro Bono means to them, assembled for National Celebrate Pro Bono Week.
Students in High Point
Students, staff, and attorney supervisors at UNC Hospitals in High Point during the Fall Break Trip!
Line at Bagel and Mingle
Students, alumni, faculty, and staff mingled over bagels and coffee at the appropriately named Bagel and Mingle.

To learn more about the Pro Bono Program, including how you can be involved, email uncprobonoalumni@gmail.com.


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