Pro Bono Program Alumni Newsletter

Pro Bono Program Newsletter: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Welcome to the Pro Bono Alumni Newsletter!


I'm Hilary Blackwood '12, and I'm the Alumni Coordinator on the Pro Bono Board at Carolina Law. You have received this email because you showed interest in pro bono service while you were in law school at UNC, and we thought you would be interested in reconnecting with what's going on with the Pro Bono Program now. I will send you an email only once a month with an update about what we're doing and how you can get involved. Please feel free to email me at if you have any questions or comments.

In This Issue

  • And, the Final Results are...
  • Introducing Our Third Alumni All-Star, Ray Owens '78
  • Cat's Out of the Bag
  • Nobody Can Say They Weren't Willing
  • Speeding Things Up A Bit
  • Service for Service Members
  • Featuring: The Driver's License Restoration Project
  • Announcing our Award Winners
  • Introducing the New Pro Bono Board

And, the Final Results are...

  • 1L Class: 68% class participation and 5,919 pro bono hours served.
  • 2L Class: 84% class participation and 12,182 pro bono hours served.
  • 3L Class: 70% class participation and 13,050.1 pro bono hours served.

Alumni News You Can Use

Introducing Our Third Alumni All-Star, Ray Owens '78

The call of service for me (like for most of us) existed prior to law school. Although Watergate may have been the immediate prompt for my choice of the legal profession, my father was a Baptist minister and our family debated about and participated in issues of justice long before I struggled with obscure principles of negotiable instruments and the like. A law degree and license permitted me, however, to serve in a unique way. The complexity of the law was, and is, daunting for trained attorneys much less for the poor and uneducated. The challenges posed by rules of evidence and procedure are only the beginning. Beyond these fundamentals lie Federal, state, and municipal statutes, regulations, and ordinances. Throw in the common law and its uncertainties and you have a minefield for any lay litigant much less for the poor.

I began doing pro bono work as an associate in a small firm, and I continued as an attorney with Kennedy Covington and later K&L Gates. My work ranged from landlord-tenant disputes to serving as a court appointed guardian for children in several contested abuse and neglect cases. As a partner, I continued this work, but I longed for something "transformative" on a wider policy level. In conversations with the Southern Environmental Law Center, I learned of the Navy's plans to place an outlying landing field in eastern N.C. only a few miles from the largest migratory bird refuge in North America. If the site was approved, not only would it mark the potential ruin of the refuge and the birds, but also approximately 100 families stood to lose over 30,000 acres of land by eminent domain. I was fortunate to practice in a firm that supported our trial team and our billable time. We spent over 3,000 hours on this project, making this one of the largest pro bono matters in N.C. history. The Navy was, ultimately, enjoined in its plans on behalf of our clients, Washington and Beaufort counties.

For every exceptional case, however, there are literally thousands of individuals in dire need of legal service. The full time public interest lawyers are the unsung heroes of the bar, but they cannot do it alone. Wendell Berry once wrote: "Solutions beget solutions." While his comment related to the building of community through gardening and farming, it applies as well to the unique legal service we can provide our fellow citizens. The eviction you may prevent or the SSI benefits you may recover may save a family, which in turn profits us all.

Alumni All-Stars

The Pro Bono Program seeks to recognize outstanding alumni--those who consistently take the time to submit projects and work with our students. The Alumni All-Stars are those power players, our go-to guys and gals, who we can always count on for support. If you know someone who deserves to receive this recognition, please e-mail

Cat's Out of the Bag

This semester has seen the fledgling stages of an exciting new project with many players. The UNC Law Pro Bono Program was approached by Dr. Mike Steiner, Medical Director of Outpatient Clinics at UNC Children's Hospitals, about the possibility of forming a Medical-Legal Partnership. Pro Bono Board member Lauren Cranford, '12, and Dean Sylvia Novinsky have worked with Dr. Steiner's team and Legal Aid of North Carolina to determine what kinds of legal issues might also exist in conjunction with a patient's medical care, spending several hours touring the children's clinic. For example, if a child has a chronic asthma problem as result of mold growing in a rented apartment, there is a legal issue where the landlord has a responsibility to provide safe, habitable living conditions. Lauren commented, "spending time with the medical staff was an eye-opening experience. They are committed to providing world-class medical care, and they know that sometimes that involves looking at other issues that patients and families face. We are looking forward to creating a model to address these needs from both sides." Working together, the teams hope to solve two problems at once -- the legal issue which has led to the medical issue. Other than landlord-tenant problems, potential legal issues include creditor-debtor problems, issues with utilities companies, and education-related needs.

To carry out this work, the UNC Law Pro Bono Program has been fortunate to find a community partner in Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC). LANC can help lead future pro bono work both by supplying supervising attorneys and providing oversight through its broad knowledge base. LANC is especially excited to devote its resources to solving problems attendant to patients' medical needs, and to reach a new client population through UNC Hospitals. Attorneys from both the Pittsboro and Durham offices have been instrumental in directing the partnership thus far.

Possible future pro bono activities for UNC Law students include: assisting with client intake, researching particular legal issues, developing a pro se materials bank, helping with pro se clinics, and assisting with the training of hospital medical staff. The partnership has also created a summer internship position to assist in researching potential models for the medical and legal teams to employ, such as a patient needs assessment questionnaire. Dean Novinsky and Lauren expect this to be a long-term project with huge growth potential out of these initial stages.

Nobody Can Say They Weren't Willing

The WNC Team Hard at Work

Our fearless special trips coordinators, Bethan Eynon '12 and Daniel Mangual '11 went separately to opposite ends of the state to maximize our outreach over spring break.

Danny and Tammy Bouchelle '01 headed to Western North Carolina (WNC) with 10 law students to assist North Carolinians in writing their wills and drafting several other advanced directives. Boone was our central location and the site of our lodging. From Boone we traveled to Newland in Avery County and Sparta in Alleghany County and met with our clients at senior centers in both towns. For many students on the trip, this was their first experience working with their own client in a legal capacity. Students interviewed their clients, drafted documents, and then assisted their clients in executing the advanced directives. The WNC team drafted 71 documents for 30 clients.

Reviewing Documents Before Signing

The days were extremely long with students waking up at 6 a.m. to be ready and on-time for 9 a.m. client appointments. Traveling to and from our clinics in the Boone, N.C., Legal Aid service area took up to two hours in some instances. When students weren't working with their clients, they were able to get to know fellow students while enjoying North Carolina delicacies, like Avery County BBQ.

The ENC Team

Bethan and Pro Bono Board Director Emily Wallwork '11, along with John Kasprzak '05 and Dorsey Ballard from student services, spearheaded the trip headed out to Eastern North Carolina (ENC) with 19 law students. Based out of Rocky Mount, we held clinics in Rocky Mount (Down East Partnership for Children), Halifax County (Weldon at the Halifax Community College and Scotland Neck at the Town Hall), and Kinston (Business Enterprise Center). All of the communities that we served this year were new sites, and we made some great connections that will help grow the Wills Project in future years. Additionally, we worked with two new Legal Aid Offices: Wilson and Ahoskie.

The ENC team drafted 179 documents for 67 clients. Our goal for the project was to serve 20 clients per day. The third day of the trip in Kinston was especially notable - we served about 35 clients (15 more than we had appointment slots for!) and our students worked one-on-one with the clients to meet the need (usually they work in pairs). One of our students, Adam Parker, had worked with Kinston while earning his MPA at the School of Government, so the community welcomed us with open arms - King's Barbecue hosted a free pig pickin' lunch for us where we met many local political leaders including the mayor.

As with Fall Break, the trip's success rested on our client outreach leading up to Spring Break. The day before the group left for the trip, two students drove out to Kinston to speak at a local church about the clinic. The LANC offices distributed flyers in local communities, and the Center for Civil Rights had its entire staff on the phones with their connections in these communities during the week leading up to the trip.

Trips like this are great opportunities for students to meet other students in the law school, put their legal knowledge to practical use, and expose students to new people and places in North Carolina. Whether it's by discussing an interesting or difficult legal issue presented or by simply sharing a cocktail over client stories after 5 p.m., students get an experience from this trip which they can cherish throughout their legal career.

Speeding Things Up a Bit

Neil Bagchi '04 Discusses Interviewing Techniques with Students

To the tune of Miles Davis and Count Basie, the UNC Law Pro Bono Program hosted its first annual speed-networking event. The law school Rotunda was transformed into a scene reminiscent of an upscale café with wooden pub style tables and baklava to boot. In an effort to fully execute the 2010-2011 Pro Bono Board's mission to make "Pro Bono For Everyone," we created this event to cater to the particular needs of students pursuing careers in the private sector.

We have emphasized how useful doing pro bono work is for bolstering resumes, standing out in job interviews, and gaining useful skill sets that are easily transferable into the firm world, but this was our first attempt to put what we preach into practice. The results were nothing short of stellar. With thirteen attorneys, ranging from first year associates to hiring partner from major law firms across North Carolina and D.C., our students were fortunate enough to learn from some of the best and brightest to tailor their job interviewing techniques and responses. The goal of this event was to leave student participants feeling empowered to talk about their pro bono work in a firm interview setting, and, ultimately, snag one of those highly coveted firm jobs.

Chris Brook '05 Spends One-On-One Time with 1L Joseph Nienaber

The way we sought to achieve this goal was simple. Each attorney was assigned a different "role" in advance, which gave the students experience in dealing with a wide range of interviewer types. We asked students to think about specific questions and to practice articulating their answers in advance, all questions were designed to simulate real firm interview questions. Each student had the pleasure of interacting with and learning from multiple attorneys. At the end of speed networking, students and alums joined together for an informal reception over baklava and coffee. Our students found this to be a great way to connect with and learn from alums who, like them, are devoted to making a difference through pro bono work. We look forward to continuing this event in the future. Please contact Danielle Gonderinger at if you would like to be involved.

Service for Service Members

The UNC Law Pro Bono Program announces the creation of an exciting new partnership with the Legal Assistance Office of the Judge Advocate General Office at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps military base in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Michael Archer of the Legal Assistance Office for Camp Lejeune will be working with UNC Law students to protect Marines and their families from consumer fraud. The Service Members Civil Release Act is a federal law that allows service members to be released from contracts (such as cell phones and credit cards) when they are deployed. However, the JAG is having a difficult time enforcing this relatively new law, and potential violations are rampant. Service members and their families are also particularly vulnerable to consumer fraud from predatory and dishonest business practices around military bases. By utilizing law student assistance in interviewing and preparing affidavits from potential defrauded service members, the Legal Assistance Office will be able to enforce the Service Members Civil Release Act and better business practices upon businesses and companies who take advantage of service members.

Featuring: The Driver's License Restoration Project

Over the past two years, 3L Meghan Jones has worked with alumni, community members, and NCCU School of Law to establish the Drivers License Restoration Project. Not having a driver's license inhibits many struggling citizens from getting to work and getting along with their lives. This project helps remove this one significant obstacle by helping indigent individuals in North Carolina develop a plan for reinstating their driver's license following revocation.

This project is a successful collaborative effort, uniting the Orange County District Attorney's Office, NCCU School of Law, and UNC School of Law. At UNC, over 24 students have gained valuable traffic law training, client interviewing experience, and networking opportunities with practicing attorneys. Furthermore, they have found a tangible way to serve their community at large. For more details about the project, please contact Project Coordinator Jane Kerwin at 919.450.8672.

Announcing Our Award Winners

Each year, the Pro Bono Program celebrates the outstanding pro bono service of students, student groups, faculty, and alumni at the Pro Bono Publico Awards. The winners were chosen from a strong pool of applicants based on their pro bono service and the impact of their work on their peers, school, and community. This year's reception will be held on April 13, 2011 at 12 p.m. and will celebrate the following outstanding members of the UNC Law Community:

  • Alumna of the Year: Mandy Hitchcock '07
  • Faculty Member of the Year: Professor Holning Lau
  • Graduating Students of the Year: Robert Lamb '11 and Angela Spong '11
  • 3L Student of the Year: Lauren Gebhard '11
  • 2L Student of the Year: Mary Irvine '12
  • 1L Student of the Year: Adam Parker '13

Introducing the New Pro Bono Board

Finally, I am very pleased to announce the 2011-2012 Pro Bono Program Board!

  • Director: Bethan Eynon
  • 3L Class Coordinator: Carla Hermida
  • 2L Class Coordinator: Meriwether Evans
  • Alumni Outreach Coordinator: Danielle Gonderinger
  • Attorney Projects Coordinator: Yolanda Fair
  • Group Projects Coordinator: Elizabeth Morgan
  • New Projects Development Coordinator: Lauren Cranford
  • Public Relations Coordinator: Jaha Avery
  • Special Trips Coordinator: Adam Parker
  • Special Trips Coordinator: Andrew Brown
  • Winter & Spring Break Projects Coordinator: Shonaka Ellison
  • Advisor: Sylvia Novinsky

How You Can Support Pro Bono at UNC Law

The Pro Bono Program has come so far in a few short years, but we need your support to continue our mission. There are two general ways that you can support the pro bono program at Carolina Law:

Submit a project: Law students can help you with everything from research and writing to interviewing clients. When you submit a project, you can specify if you prefer a 2L or 3L to work, the time commitment, any specific skills required, etc. You can even submit a project online. Students can do projects both during the school year and over winter and spring breaks. If you have any questions, please email Lauren Felter, the Attorney Projects Coordinator, at or consult our FAQ webpage.

Provide financial support: Finally, your financial support is incredibly beneficial to us. The support of our donors helps us continue to allow students to come on pro bono trips at a very low cost to themselves, thus helping ensure that personal finance is no barrier to doing pro bono work. You can donate online (please select "Pro Bono Program").

For next year, I leave you in the capable hands of our new Alumni Outreach Coordinator, Danielle Gonderinger '13, who will take over this newsletter at the end of the summer. It has been a pleasure working with each of you this year, truly thanks.

Please continue supporting the Pro Bono Program in any way that you can, and please don't hesitate to email Danielle at if you have any questions.

Go Heels,


Hilary Blackwood
Alumni Coordinator
UNC Law Pro Bono Program
Students and Lawyers Making a Difference

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