Blog | Pro Bono Program

Hickory Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Jake Wright '20

Before departing on our trip to Hickory, we conducted a training program to learn how to draft forms in order to create a will, statutory power of attorney form, medical power of attorney form, and a living will. Through an intensive, yet invigorating process, we learned not only how to perform the required legal work, but also how to build rapport with clients in order to be as compassionate and caring as possible.

We arrived in Morganton, NC on the morning of March 11th to begin our work with Legal Aid of North Carolina. After a brief lecture in order to recap our prior training, we divided into teams of two and began seeing clients under the supervision of attorneys. We worked with clients primarily from the Morganton area, and many were relieved to get their wills drafted. However, our work with such individuals was not a mere legal transaction. Instead, many clients took time to discuss their personal lives, and asked about our interests in the legal field. Through such rapport and legal work, we were able to utilize our education to provide a tangible benefit to members within that community. Afterward, we retired to our hotel in nearby Hickory, NC, and ate a delicious dinner at the local Mellow Mushroom.

The next morning, we drove to Bethel Church in Hickory, and performed a full day of legal service to local clients. As a Hickory native, this was a particularly memorable experience for me, for it provided me the opportunity to perform valuable legal service in the community in which I have spent my entire life. With the assistance of Legal Aid, we drafted wills for many clients. Personally, I was able to build a strong connection with several clients, and enjoyed sharing memories with them of my childhood in the area. After completing our work, we enjoyed an alumni dinner with a UNC law graduate, who provided our group advice with our legal careers.

On our last morning, we drove to Lenoir, NC, a city 20 miles to the north of Hickory. We performed a morning session in which we drafted wills for clients local to the Lenoir area. By drawing upon our experience from the past two days, we were able to efficiently draft the requested documents and perform our legal services to clients within the area. Upon completing our session with clients, we discussed as a group what we learned from our trip. Personally, I was very grateful for Legal Aid and UNC Pro Bono for allowing me to perform valuable legal services to clients within my hometown.

After finishing up our group session, we enjoyed one last delicious meal at a North Carolina culinary staple: Cookout. We returned to Chapel Hill with significant gratitude for the opportunity to help clients within the Hickory area, and are eager to return in the near future.

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Thu. March 28, 2019 9:07 AM
Categories: General, Spring Break 2019

Hickory Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Sheri Dickson '19

Hickory Group

As we began the training process to prepare for our Pro Bono trip to Hickory, North Carolina it was impossible to imagine the tangible real life impact our work could have on the local community. It is so easy to lose sight of why you actually came to law school as you prepare daily and weekly for classes, and ultimately for your final exams for the semester. Taking a Pro Bono trip, like the one to Hickory is a remarkable way of putting everything into perspective and making use of what we are learning in school.

We started out our first day at the Legal Aid of North Carolina, Morganton office in Burke County. There, Andrew Cogdell ‘85 led the volunteers by patiently providing guidance as we drafted wills, powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney, and living will documents for the clients. I think we were all grateful that our first day was the lighter of the three days as we became more familiar with the documents and how to explain them to our clients. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to reflect on our experience and to collectively learn more. We were also able to go to dinner as a group and learn more about each other. I personally enjoyed the chance to get to know some of the 1Ls and 2Ls I hadn’t had the opportunity to interact with before the trip.

The second day of our trip we had the wills clinic in Catawba County, in a local church. It was great to see that our work could have such a meaningful impact on the wonderful people in that community. The clients were grateful and seemed to walk out of there with a weight lifted off of their shoulders. Sometimes it became very emotional as a client was facing their own mortality but ultimately they all wanted to take the burden off their loved ones they would be leaving behind.

The final day we spent in Caldwell County at a library in Lenoir, North Carolina. It was a very busy day and the reality set in that at times you have to be aware of the potential of  undue influence on your clients. Learning to navigate the situation by separating your client from his or her family members so you can ensure their specific wishes are implemented, is an important lesson to learn, especially early on in your legal career.

This was such a rewarding experience and I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in the Hickory area. Hearing stories about their lives, their families, and about why it was so important to them to have everything in order was amazing. As we study law and go through the process of learning the elements, it is easy to lose sight of the human component. While it was a great opportunity to gain experience in preparing legal documents, client counseling, and interviewing, I think the best part was that we were able to provide meaningful assistance to clients who might not otherwise have the means to hire an attorney. I think we all enjoyed our time together and are thankful for the opportunity. I only wish I had been able to participate in a Pro Bono trip sooner.

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Mon. March 25, 2019 2:55 PM
Categories: Spring Break 2019

Greenville Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Cayla Rodney ‘21

Students Chloe Altieri
Students Chloe Altieri '21, Josh Smith '20, Olivia Perry '20, and Cayla Rodney '21 research disaster relief cases at Legal Aid of North Carolina- Greenville. 

During our pre-trip training in Chapel Hill, none of us could have imagined the unforgettable experience we would have in just a few short days. Our training consisted of a quick crash course on hurricane relief efforts, landlord-tenant rights during natural disasters, and some of the challenges facing eastern North Carolina.

We arrived in Greenville, NC the morning of March 11 to begin our first day at Legal Aid of North Carolina. After  meeting the Legal Aid staff, we enthusiastically began our research on how we could best assist these communities hardest hit by Hurricane Florence last September. To begin our research, we broke up into teams of two to focus on the various pieces such as the communities affected and the people involved. Our whole day flew by as we dove deeper into the situation and excitedly reported back to supervising attorneys when we found some new, important evidence. At the end of our first day, we left the office buzzing about the incredible progress we made. Then, to celebrate, we had a true southern dinner at Parkers Barbeque.

On our second day, we continued our research. This experience allowed us all to hone our skills in combing through public records, compiling data, and putting it in a readable form for our supervising attorneys. After we sent in our research, we were able to see the networking capabilities of Legal Aid of North Carolina when they are faced with a huge project such as this one. Over twenty legal aid attorneys across the state discussed our research over conference calls to figure out the best next steps for their clients and to give us new topics to look into.

Following our second day at Legal Aid, we went and visited Judge Callaway at the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina. As an alumnus, Judge Callaway generously welcomed us on a tour of the courthouse and gave us invaluable insight on his career. Finally, we finished up day two with an UNC Law School alumni dinner where we had five former graduates join us. While at dinner, the attorneys shared advice on how to navigate law school, the bar exam, and a successful legal career. All of us were extremely grateful for the opportunity to hear about their experiences.

On our last day at Legal Aid, we finished up our research and began to reach out to clients. After compiling all of the information surrounding this situation, all of us found it incredibly impactful to hear what was going on from the people actually affected. During these phone calls, we collected facts from each client and heard about their circumstances and how their lives were impacted by the hurricane.

As we finished up our final calls and said our goodbyes to the attorneys at Legal Aid, we left Greenville with an immense amount of gratitude for the experience and a better understand of the unique challenges that Eastern North Carolina faces.

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Wed. March 20, 2019 2:23 PM
Categories: General, Spring Break 2019

Reflections from Cherokee: By Erin Wilson

Erin Wilson and Ryan Collins
Erin Wilson and Ryan Collins working at the Swain County Courthouse. 

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Tue. January 8, 2019 3:43 PM
Categories: Winter Break 2018

Wilmington Spring Break Pro Bono Trip - Days 2 and 3 by Sam Spalding

Students in Wilmington

On the second day of our Wilmington trip, we reconvened at the New Hanover Public Library to review the client data from the previous afternoon. We learned that morning that Erika Jones, a New Hanover Assistant District Attorney (and UNC Law alumna!) would be meeting with each of our interview teams throughout the afternoon. Although Ms. Jones had already done some preliminary research into each client file, our role was to advocate for each of the clients and relate the information in the affidavits and impact statements into a compelling argument in favor of dismissing the clients’ charges.
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No Comments | Posted by Kelly Hebrank on Tue. May 1, 2018 10:59 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2018

Wilmington Spring Break Pro Bono Trip - Day 1 by Lashieka Hardin

Attorney speaks to students.

Leading up to the Spring Break Trip to Wilmington, I was so excited when I received an email stating that I was one of the ten students selected to participate in the trip. The main reason for excitement was my anticipation of the impact our efforts to restore someone’s license, a seemingly mundane task, could have on someone’s overall quality of life. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

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No Comments | Posted by Kelly Hebrank on Tue. May 1, 2018 10:21 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2018

Experiential and Cultural Learning on the Cherokee Trip, By: Jon Leonard

Tsali Manor
The personal cases that unfolded during the trip brought to reality the emotionally sensitive cases we read about in law school and see on TV. Yet, it was surreal to see clients' emotions up close. In these tender moments we learned how to build trust with clients. While we realized there was a specific task at hand--to prepare the desired legal documents, nothing trumped the power of human emotion. As good attorneys, we should draft thorough and accurate documents, but we must never forget the importance of counseling that comes with our position. 

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No Comments | Posted by Rana J. Odeh on Fri. January 12, 2018 5:28 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2017

Heels Tread New Ground with UNC Law Pro Bono Program’s Most Remote Project Yet, By: Ashle Page

Snowbird participants

Lawyers are often described through a variety of words: attorney, mediator, advocate, litigator, counselor, judge, prosecutor, defender, and many more. Through the Pro Bono trip to Cherokee, in my view, three more terms emerged as even better descriptions of the potential a lawyer can have on others. A lawyer is a learner, a problem-solver, and simply, a fellow human being.

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No Comments | Posted by Rana J. Odeh on Fri. January 12, 2018 4:59 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2017

Carolina Law Truly has A “Will”ingness to Help Others, By: Michael Peretz

Dean Brinkley, right, helping Michael Peretz, left, prepare clients
Before applying to be part of this Pro Bono Trip to Cherokee, North Carolina, I was warned by multiple 2Ls and 3Ls that, over the course of my first long, arduous semester in law school, it becomes easy to lose sight of why one comes to law school to begin with. They warned that a typical 1L’s desire to join a profession to help others often gets supplanted by a strong desire to get the highest grades possible, and that I should participate in Pro Bono work over my first Winter Break in order to remind myself why I wanted to become part of the legal profession to begin with. Fearing that I was actually slipping into this “1L trap” halfway through the semester, I applied to this Pro Bono project at the urging of those who participated in this trip previously because it would allow me to directly interact with clients and help them solve some of their family’s legal problems. I am so glad they recommended I do so—it truly was such an amazing experience.
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No Comments | Posted by Rana J. Odeh on Fri. January 12, 2018 4:13 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2017

Alumna Feature: Bridget Warren, '14

Bridget Warren
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law: Bridget Warren, 2014

Place of employment: Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP

Area of practice: Litigation, specifically commercial litigation

Favorite class/professor in law school: Employment law and employment discrimination, both with Associate Dean Hirsch

Pro Bono experience in law school:

While in law school, I did pro bono work at Patterson Harkavy, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, and the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, including interviewing witnesses, and conducting legal research and writing related memoranda. I also participated in UNC’s divorce pro bono project where we helped low-income couples get divorced, and in UNC’s expunction clinic where we assisted individuals in evaluating whether they were eligible for expunctions and, if so, helped them apply for one.

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

My parents raised my three siblings and me to always help others who did not have the means and resources to get the assistance they needed. This way of thinking was instilled in us at a very early age, and it has continued to be an important pillar in my life. Throughout high school and college, I volunteered in different organizations that helped children learn to read and immigrants learn English. I chose UNC Law in large part because of its robust Pro Bono program, and when I got to UNC I took advantage of the opportunities the program offered. Now that I am a practicing attorney, it is extremely important to me that I help others who cannot pay to hire a lawyer but who, nonetheless, have been wronged. Through various organizations, mainly Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Council for Children’s Rights, I am able to continue serving others, helping them by removing some legal barriers, however small.

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Posted by James G. Wudel on Tue. May 2, 2017 9:50 AM
Categories: Alumni Features
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