Pro Bono Program Alumni Newsletter

Pro Bono Program Alumni Newsletter: Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome to the Pro Bono Alumni Newsletter!

Greetings!

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 probonoalumni@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

In This Issue

  • Alumni News You Can Use: Meet Stephanie Lewis '00
  • Celebrating Alex Finamore
  • NOLA: Where We Gained as Much as We Gave
  • Winter Break Pro Bono: How We Spend Our Holidays
  • Featuring: The Environmental Law Project
  • Our Digital Footprint: Join Us
  • Discover the many ways you can support pro bono at Carolina Law!

Alumni News You Can Use

Stephanie's Pro Bono Initiative

Stephanie Eakes Lewis was one of the founding Board members of the Pro Bono Program. After graduating in 2000, it's no surprise that her pro bono initiative has infiltrated the places in which she has worked, particularly Jackson Lewis.

Stephanie LewisThroughout its history, Jackson Lewis has had a commitment to community service and charitable activities and has encouraged attorneys to perform pro bono services. However, it lacked a formal pro bono program. When I was recruited to join the firm, it was in part for the purpose of helping to design and implement a formal pro bono program. I had a background in administering the pro bono program at my prior firm and had been involved in starting the Pro Bono Program at Chapel Hill in 1997 and in developing pro bono programs for the homeless in Charleston. After studying several programs, including model programs through the ABA and Pro Bono Institute, I proposed a formal Pro Bono Initiative to the firm's management committee, which approved the Pro Bono Initiative in 2009.

The Pro Bono Initiative was designed to ensure that Jackson Lewis could leverage its national presence so that pro bono would have the greatest impact on the local communities where we practice. The firm now requires all attorneys to donate 50 hours a year to legal pro bono services. Jackson Lewis is currently on track to provide thousands of hours of pro bono legal services this year, and more than double the number of hours provided last year.

The firm's Pro Bono Initiative consists of the following key elements: 1) two national pro bono coordinators to administer the program; 2) a goal of a minimum number of 50 annual pro bono legal service hours per attorney; and 3) billable credit for pro bono matters handled by associates. At the core of the Pro Bono Initiative is the belief that national law firms like Jackson Lewis have a unique role in ensuring equal access to our system of law, justice for the disadvantaged, and legal assistance for charitable organizations that serve the indigent.

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 probonoalumni@gmail.com.

Celebrating Alex Finamore

Alex Finamore The UNC Law community suffered a huge loss with the passing of 3L Alex Finamore this January. Alex was a beloved friend, a respected colleague, and an active participant in the Pro Bono Program. During his time here at UNC Law, Alex contributed over 100 hours of pro bono service to those who would have otherwise been unable to afford or access legal services.

Alex's unwavering commitment to social justice and pro bono work illustrates the ideals of the legal profession. Alex volunteered his time across a wide array of causes and areas of law. He assisted prisoners sentenced to the death penalty, helped disabled North Carolinians assert their right to vote, and educated local children about the Constitution. Most notably, Alex traveled to New Orleans on our annual trip to address the city's continuing legal needs following Hurricane Katrina. By all accounts, Alex made the 2008 trip one of the most memorable experiences for many of his classmates.

Alex's dedication to pro bono work demonstrates what the Pro Bono Program strives to instill in our students. Daniel Mangual '11, a classmate and friend, said that "Alex didn't do pro bono for the hours or the recognition at graduation. He did it because it was the right thing to do, because it was a way of helping the less fortunate." Ryan Caban '11, another friend and fellow New Orleans trip participant, noted how Alex's pro bono work reflected his personality. "He was always willing to interview more difficult clients or take on more work. He did it all so effortlessly ... and of course he was great with everyone he worked with. And he never came across as anything less than genuine." Through his pro bono work, Alex inspired his classmates and colleagues to find joy and meaning in the legal profession.

Alex will be remembered by the people whose lives he touched, including not only the classmates he inspired but also the people who benefitted from the legal services he selflessly provided. We, as Alex's classmates and friends, are proud to be a part of the program and the profession to which Alex chose to devote his time and passion. He will be truly missed.

NOLA: Where We Gained as Much as We Gave

NOLA Students Hard at Work

This January, Special Trips Coordinators Daniel Mangual '11 and Bethan Eynon '12 caravaned 22 students to New Orleans for our fifth annual pro bono trip. The trip originated in response to Hurricane Katrina and continues its goal to assist the city in addressing its unmet legal needs. The students worked with three separate organizations in New Orleans: the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, the Orleans Public Defender, and New Orleans Legal Assistance of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (NOLAC).

Students were grouped in teams and worked on a variety of legal issues alongside other law students from across the country. Whether it was meeting with clients to discuss succession or divorce issues at the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, drafting memos and motions at the Orleans Public Defenders, or researching issues of contractor fraud and consumer bankruptcy at NOLAC, students were excited to get their first hands-on legal experience in a challenging environment.

For the trip participants, working in New Orleans reminded them of the need for low-cost legal services and why we do pro bono work. They also explored NOLA's unique Cajun culture and we were inspired by a resilient city continually on the rise in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Students saw first-hand the progress New Orleans has made over the past five years through the Sugar Bowl. And, of course, they formed enduring friendships with students they never would have met if not for the Pro Bono Program.

Yolanda Fair '13 and Barrett Holland '12 Strike a Pose

Barrett Holland '12 describes how his legal skills were sharpened while giving back to a community in need: "My time spent working with the Orleans Public Defenders office ("OPD") was unlike any previous legal work I had done, either on previous pro bono projects or during summer employment at a small firm. The attorneys working for OPD understand that their clients are often facing steep uphill battles. The office is understaffed and underfunded. However, despite the ever-mounting obstacles, the OPD attorneys approached every matter on which we worked with a sense of dedication to the client and an unwavering resolve to give the best possible representation, whatever the circumstances.

While working with OPD, I found the remarkable efforts of the OPD attorneys to be a source of inspiration as I began tackling unfamiliar assignments. As a 2L who has previously worked on criminal defense matters, I was astonished when our supervising attorney handed me two files on our first day with OPD - "my" cases - and assigned me several tasks of which I understood nearly nothing at all. Within hours, however, I was immersed in the work and was reluctant to leave at the end of the day. By using the skills I already had, I was able to expand the range of legal work I felt confident undertaking. My time with OPD therefore not only exposed me to poignant realities of the criminal justice system, but it also forced me out of my comfort zone and thereby helped me grow as an aspiring attorney. Most importantly, however, the work we completed was unquestionably of critical importance for the clients to whom our supervising attorneys would otherwise not have been able to devote nearly as much time."

For other student reflections, see our blog at http://www.forthegoodofthegulf.blogspot.com/.

The Pro Bono Program's Special Trips Coordinators organize three other trips throughout the year: the Fall Break Wills Project to Moore County and the Spring Break Wills Project trips to Eastern and Western North Carolina. All of our trips are largely dependent on private donations. To support our outreach efforts to the underserved populations of North Carolina and the South, consider donating by sending a check payable to "UNC School of Law" with "Pro Bono Discretionary Fund" in the memo line to UNC School of Law Pro Bono Program, c/o Dean Sylvia Novinsky, CB #3380, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. Alternatively, donate online by going to http://giving.unc.edu/gift/, selecting "School of Law" as the University Designation and "Other" as the University Fund, and typing "Pro Bono Discretionary Fund" in the box.

Winter Break Pro Bono: How We Spend Our Holidays

Happy to be Giving and Getting Pro Bono Projects

Winter Break Pro Bono Projects were a smashing success! From Brooklyn to Charlotte to the comfort of their own homes, 131 UNC Law students spent their well-deserved winter breaks completing pro bono projects either remotely or on-site. This year's projects ranged from animal law to Native American tribal law to criminal defense work, and everything in between. Among public interest organizations, world-renowned private law firms, academic centers, government offices, and solo practitioners, UNC Law students assisted over 70 different organizations this winter.

Students were enthusiastic about their experiences and spoke highly of attorneys' willingness to work with them and guide them through the process of real legal work. Tansy Woan '13 worked on an immigration issue by preparing a brief for a federal case. Tansy said:

"It felt really good to know that even as a 1L, having no previous background in immigration law, I was able to, with just a little bit of work, potentially help an immigrant here in North Carolina and hopefully prevent her from getting deported. It was amazing to know how much was weighing on my work, since I knew that if my brief wasn't convincing enough to the judge, she was going to get deported, as this was the judge's original order and the only reason she hadn't been deported yet was because my supervising attorney requested asylum nunc pro tunc relief.

Knowing that whether or not she was going to get deported and separated from her husband, who is here in North Carolina, depended largely on my work product put a lot of pressure on me. But it only encouraged me to work harder to ensure that I gave it my absolute best. It's great to know that what I spend hours studying in law school can actually have material effects on real people in the world!"

When Lauren Cranford and Raina Haque, this year's Winter Break Project Coordinators, hand over the reins to their successors, they hope there will be an increase in momentum so that next year's Winter Break Pro Bono projects can reach even more under served clients. Thanks to all of the attorneys who supervised this year's projects--you all helped to ensure that a thriving Carolina Law tradition had a tremendous impact on both students and our community.

Featuring: The Environmental Law Project

The Environmental Law Project ("ELP") is the first UNC Law student organization to be highlighted in our new monthly feature. ELP students are currently working on the ELP Symposium--a monthly speaker series and organizing UNC Law's recycling project. ELP students are also involved in The Research Confidentiality Project. Through this project, ELP students are looking at the legal pressures that public university researchers face when conducting social science, especially environmental research, with sensitive populations. The group is investigating environmental justice issues, freedom of information and public records requests, and attacks on unpopular science. If you are interested in getting involved with this student organization, please contact ELP President Lauren Joy '12 at lcjoy@email.unc.edu.

Our Digital Footprint: Join Us

The Pro Bono Board made the decision to expand our digital footprint in 2010 by adding a Facebook page. Having a Facebook presence has become an integral component of any attempt to connect with "Millenials." Facebook represents a unique opportunity for students to instantly share their thoughts on pro bono events and opportunities and casually consume information about everything in the UNC Pro Bono universe. The ease of use and interactivity of Facebook makes it an ideal outlet for us to connect with students, attorneys, and alumni.

If you're interested in having access to information about our program and opportunities to get involved please "Like" us at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/UNC-Pro-Bono-Program/134848889893456.

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 uncprobonoprojects@gmail.com 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").


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

Go Heels,

Hilary

Hilary Blackwood
Alumni Coordinator
UNC Law Pro Bono Program
Students and Lawyers Making a Difference
http://www.law.unc.edu/studentlife/probono/