Blog | Pro Bono Program

Alumna Feature: Lindsey W. Spain '12

Lindsey W. Spain
Name and Year of Graduation from UNC Law:

Lindsey W. Spain, UNC Law Class of 2012

Place of employment:

Thomas, Ferguson & Mullins, LLP

Area of practice:

Criminal Defense

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Juvenile Justice Clinic with the accompanying Criminal Lawyering Process class taught by Professors Tamar Birckhead and Barb Fedders. I also enjoyed Trusts and Estates with Al Brophy and Business Associations with John Coyle.

Pro Bono experience in law school:

In law school, my first Pro Bono experience was over winter break of my 1L year when I volunteered to work at a local firm in Durham and created a trial digest notebook of a deposition. It was my first taste of doing actual legal work, and I was hooked. From there, I was fortunate enough to go on 2 Pro Bono trips: a trip to draft wills for low-income individuals in western North Carolina during my 1L year and a trip to assist in the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office during my 3L year. I also regularly volunteered my time at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office during my third year of law school to gain more legal experience and help the local community.

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work?

I was first inspired to do Pro Bono work because I knew it would be a great way to get actual legal experience outside of the classroom. I continued to do Pro Bono work throughout law school and in my practice because it is extremely rewarding to be able to give back to the citizens of my home state. I enjoy meeting the people that I help and knowing that I’ve made even a small difference in their lives.

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Posted by Jared S. Smith on Sat. January 30, 2016 1:44 PM
Categories: Alumni Features

My 2015 Pro Bono Cherokee Trip Experience

                   Each of the three previous Pro Bono trips that I have been involved in has included a moment or experience that has caused my emotions to be heavily engaged. Moments or experiences like this are what led me to want to be a part of the planning process for the trips.

            Thankfully, the trip to Cherokee did not disappoint. While we had to wait and were almost not able to, we eventually were able to observe Tribal Court. Prior to observing court, the Chief Justice spoke to us about the history of the tribe and of the court itself. This was extremely interesting as he spoke about the per capita payments that tribal members received from the casino and what the process looked like for the court to have jurisdiction over criminals and crimes. He described how tribal members could receive several thousands of dollars at the age of 18 or 21 and how crimes seemed to explode around the time that these payments were released to the members.

            Immediately following the discussion with the Chief Justice, two individuals, a man and woman, were brought into the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles. While they were both adults, each of them looked as if they were around fifteen years old. They were placed at two ends of the courtroom. The Judge spoke to the woman about her rights under the Violence Against Women Act and how that act was being used in this case. The way I understood it, with the man in this dispute being a tribal member, the VAWA act allowed for the court to have jurisdiction over her abuse of the man as well as his abuse of her.

            They had been involved in a dispute earlier in the day, they supposedly assaulted each other, and the officers could not figure out who had started it. The Judge described to the woman how long she was going to have to stay in jail and the fact that her children were now with Social Services. This woman, who was wearing a shirt that stated “Middle Finger in the air if you don’t ****** care,” began to cry.

            The judge then spoke to the man. The man had attempted to fill out an application for a public defender. The man had attempted to apply for a public defender even though he had over $80,000 in his bank account. When the Judge quickly declared that the man had plenty of money to hire an attorney, the man replied with the fact that he “didn’t know how to hire an attorney.”

            My emotions were placed in a roller coaster as this situation played out. I began looking down the rows in the courtroom at the students and I glanced to see if there faces reflected the shock that I was feeling. I wasn’t sure, but following our experience in court, and when we began to reflect as a group, I quickly discovered that my emotions were shared amongst the 2015 Pro Bono Cherokee Trip Participants. 


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No Comments | Posted by William P. Norrell on Sun. January 10, 2016 8:01 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

Alumna Feature: Jenna Lyn Hoeler '12

Jenna Lyn Hoeler

Name and Year of Graduation from UNC Law:

Jenna Lyn Hoeler, UNC Law Class of 2012

Place of employment:

Ropes & Gray LLP

Area of practice:

Labor & Employment

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Labor Law, Professor Hirsch

Pro Bono experience in law school:

My absolute favorite pro bono experience in law school was traveling to New Orleans over December break to help write pro se divorce petitions. The work we did was fantastic, the people we met in New Orleans were an inspiration and there is absolutely no better way to get to know your classmates than to take part in a service trip like this.

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work?

When I was in law school, my motivation to do pro bono work was to get out into the world and see what it really meant to practice law. I had a hard time visualizing it based on what we were doing in class. I’ve continued to participate in pro bono work because it is simply the most rewarding aspect of my practice. We are all constantly surrounded by lawyers, so it is easy to forget that we have a skill that very few people possess and that even a small amount of our time can be very powerful for those who do not otherwise have access to legal help they can afford.

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Posted by Jared S. Smith on Sun. January 3, 2016 6:41 PM
Categories: Alumni Features

2015 Pro Bono Program Cherokee Trip Day 3

            On the third and final day of our trip to Cherokee, we participated in a civil clinic in partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina. This clinic was primarily intended to help the local community with family law matters, particularly divorce and custody issues. Legal Aid was tremendous in the training that they provided to each of us on the trip to ensure that the documents were executed properly in order to best utilize both our resources and the client’s time. The civil clinic was held at Yellow Hill Activity Center on the reservation, and we arrived bright and early to greet our clients with a smiling face in hope that we would be able to help satisfy their unmet legal needs.
Students were able to help clients with a number of different documents, including divorces, custody orders, and modified custody orders. The services provided during the clinic ranged from client to client depending on their specific circumstances and what would be the best way to go about getting the end result that each client desired. Some clients attended the clinic because they were trying to gain custody of a child, others were seeking visitation, and some were simply there to receive help on how to go about filing the proper paperwork for a divorce. One of the most eye-opening things that we were able to take from the work done in this clinic was just how great of a need there really is for these services. Many of the clients in attendance would have had no other means for these documents to be created, and therefore they would not have been able to come to a resolution to their particular issues without the help of this clinic. As law students we sometimes take for granted our ability to understand the law, or at least how to find adequate access to someone who does understand the law enough to help with whatever issue we need resolved. Many times though that is not the case, and rather than searching or having the resources to find the proper way to solve a legal problem, the problem remains unresolved regardless of how important or necessary it is to be resolved. Being able to help client’s resolve some of these problems was a very humbling experience.
The clinic lasted most of the day, and we worked steadily with clients until the clinic ended and we began reflections of the trip as a whole with what each student had taken from our experience in Cherokee. Each student had a unique perspective on the trip and how it had impacted them, but there was no doubt that this trip impacted everyone involved for the better. The ability to help someone with such sensitive family matters was truly a rewarding experience. Being able to learn about and understand Cherokee culture even just a little was life changing, and the gratitude that each client, as well as the community as a whole, showed to us was touching. Further, the group of students who attended this trip became very close, and we have this experience and the people of Cherokee to thank for that. Thank you to Legal Aid of North Carolina for helping with this trip. Without them, the clinics we hosted would not have been possible. To our special trips coordinators, thanks for making such a lasting experience for us. The work we did in Cherokee was impactful for a lot of people that we helped serve, and I know that it will stay with each of us as we move forward in our legal careers. 

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No Comments | Posted by Kyle E. Grusholt on Mon. December 21, 2015 7:11 AM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

2015 Pro Bono Program Cherokee Trip Day 2

On our second day in Cherokee, the UNC Law contingent fueled up on the continental breakfast before heading to the Tsali Manor Senior Center. There we broke into teams and provided assistance to approximately twenty seniors in need of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Advance Directives. Students were able to share lunch and connect with both the volunteers and seniors that spend their time and energy making the Center a special community. UNC Law 1L Andrew Simpson stated, “We came to Cherokee hoping to serve the local community, and yet it was we who were enriched by the graciousness of our clients.” At the close, the Center expressed their gratitude by giving each student a Cherokee handcrafted necklace of beads.

 

After continuing this clinic during the afternoon, our group was able to do a self-guided tour through the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, thanks to the generosity of Judge Saunooke. The museum included ancient artifacts, displays, and a brief movie with Cherokee tribal stories that were passed down through the generations. We returned back to the hotel for a Jeopardy/The Price Is Right-themed reflection session, featuring our very own MC Isaac Vargas. After a group dinner at a local restaurant, we explored Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, hoping to escape with minimal losses to add to our respective debt obligations. All in all, day two made for a great mix of pro bono service and exposure to Cherokee people, culture, and generosity.


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No Comments | Posted by Brian K. Kettmer on Fri. December 18, 2015 11:16 AM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

2015 Pro Bono Program Cherokee Trip Day 1

             The first day of our trip to Cherokee, North Carolina is in the books, and it was quite an eventful one. Students met bright and early Monday morning and made the commute across the state to the beautiful, scenic mountains of Western North Carolina. Prior to the trip, students prepared extensively for the types of work that would be done at the legal clinics in order to be as prepared as possible to ensure the best quality work would be completed for the clients being served. Upon arriving in Cherokee, students further participated in trainings with Legal Aid of North Carolina where we were able to practice our skills with the partner that will accompany us during the clinics. The training was extremely insightful, as students were able to review and build on the training we had already received as well as ask any questions to the attorneys from Legal Aid who will be accompanying us for the clinics.  This was a great opportunity for us to interact as a group, and we really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know one another better prior to the first clinic on Tuesday.          

            After the training, we were able to witness a domestic violence hearing at the Cherokee court. Before the hearing started, Chief Justice Boyum spoke to us about the unique challenges of the Cherokee court system. Chief Justice Boyum explained how the reservation has extremely limited jurisdiction over non-enrolled persons who commit crimes on the reservation, leading to some criminal offenders slipping through the cracks due to a lack of jurisdiction. He also talked about the problems that arise from the per capita payments each enrolled member receives annually; upon turning 18, each enrolled member receives a lump sum payment that has accrued until reaching adulthood. Chief Justice Boyum explained how this, combined with a poor education system, has led to some members being taken advantage of. Another important thing we learned was how many of the members don’t receive the proper education on things that many of us take for granted, such as managing finances or using a checkbook. Visiting the courthouse was an eye-opening experience, and we are very thankful for the kindness and hospitality that everyone there showed to us. 

 


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No Comments | Posted by Kyle E. Grusholt on Fri. December 18, 2015 11:05 AM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

Alumna Feature: Meriwether Evans '13

Meriwether Evans

Name and Year of Graduation from UNC Law:

Meriwether Evans, UNC Law Class of 2013

Place of employment:

Vinson & Elkins, LLP, Dallas, TX

Area of practice:

Complex Commercial Litigation

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Professor Coyle’s Business Associations. Prof. Coyle teaches the class in a way that really helped me realize how fascinating the world of corporate law can be. (That sounds super nerdy, I know.) Good thing for me, because my practice is mainly securities litigation!

Pro Bono experience in law school:

You name it, I did it. As I 1L, I drafted wills and other end-of-life documents on my first fall break trip. As a 3L, went on the winter break trip to assist the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian with legal issues they face.  I was also heavily involved with the Pro Bono Program itself, which served as my anchor in the stormy seas of law school. I was 1L Class Coordinator, 2L Class Coordinator, and then Director my 3L year. Being a part of that group of students, either as a member of the board or by doing pro bono work, was truly one of my favorite aspects of law school.

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work?

I entered law school a little later in life and knew in my second try at a career that I wanted to have the skills and knowledge to make a difference. I saw my first chance to do that with the Pro Bono Program.


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Posted by Jared S. Smith on Mon. November 30, 2015 9:23 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

Orientation Kickoff and Video Introduction

Every summer, the UNC Law Pro Bono Program gears up for 1L Orientation by preparing a video to introduce the incoming students to the Pro Bono Program.


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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Wed. November 11, 2015 5:24 PM
Categories: General

Alumnus Feature: Joe Vossen '11

Joe Vossen

Name and Year of Graduation from UNC Law:

Joe Vossen, UNC Law Class of 2011

Place of employment:

United Educators Risk Retention Group in the Washington DC area.

Area of practice:

Higher Education, Risk Management, Insurance

Favorite class/professor in law school:

It’s a tie. The two classes I enjoyed most were Evidence with Professor Broun and Insurance with Professor Hornstein.

Pro Bono experience in law school:

Pro Bono Board Winter and Spring Break Co-Coordinator, 100 hours of pro bono service at graduation

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work?

In law school I sought pro bono opportunities to provide a more practical component to my legal education. I also believe that public institutions like Carolina Law have a responsibility to give back to the state and its citizens. Serving as the Winter and Spring Break Co-Coordinator with Emily Wallwork was an incredible opportunity to pair interested law students with deserving North Carolina communities. After graduation I continued to search for pro bono opportunities in Western North Carolina, where I practiced for two years, and then Washington, DC after I moved.


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Posted by Jared S. Smith on Mon. November 2, 2015 8:24 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

The Pro Bono Bucket List

The Pro Bono Program at the University of North Carolina School of Law is one of a kind. Since the Pro Bono Program's inception in 1997, students have been connected with hundreds of projects. Last year, Carolina law students completed over 35,954 hours of Pro Bono work, worth $771,932.


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Posted by Olivia E. Taylor on Wed. October 28, 2015 1:40 PM
Categories: General
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