Blog | Pro Bono Program

“We don’t learn from talking; we learn from listening.”

The trip to Cherokee did not disappoint. It was everything that I expected plus more. Not only did I learn a lot about client interaction but I also took away some general life lessons. On the second day of the Cherokee trip, we held a Wills Clinic at Tsali Manor. Here, we would assist Cherokee residents in drafting wills, power of attorney documents, and advance directives. Initially, I was very nervous. I am a 1L and I had never drafted a legal document nor had I interacted with a client. I was also very uncomfortable speaking about one’s last wishes before death. From personal experience, I knew this could be an emotional topic for families, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take on such a difficult task.

 

As the day went by, my partner and I patiently waited for our first client. Our first two clients did not need any documents drafted that day; however, we were able to provide them with information and send them off knowing how to draft a will when they were ready. Although we had not actually drafted any documents yet, it was gratifying to empower someone with knowledge. Towards the end of the day, we had our last client. They were a couple from Cherokee looking to draft a will. At this point, my partner and I were ready to get to work. We had been reviewing the documents all day, and we were confident that this would be a smooth and quick process. However, we were in for a big surprise!

 

Our case turned out not to be simple. It was far from the “cookie-cutter” scenario that we had prepared for! The couple had some family issues and wanted to ensure that one family member did not get any of their estate. It was during the discussion of this matter that I really connected with our clients. We had something in common that was normally difficult for me to talk about, but I could tell that our clients needed some comfort and reassurance. Once I shared my similar life experience, their eyes up and we both loosened up. It was then that I realized that I wanted to create this rapport and bond with every client that I ever interact with. It makes the experience so much more meaningful.


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No Comments | Posted by Joscelyn Solomon on Thu. January 5, 2017 2:00 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

If There's A Will, There's A Way!

Tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, 22 UNC law students crawled out of bed to venture out onto the Reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to host a wills clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina at a senior citizens center in the community. Exhausted from a long day of travel and training yesterday, we retired early to our hotel rooms and then we made sure to eat a hearty breakfast and to drink a full cup of coffee before heading out this morning.

 

The senior center, full of Christmas decorations and holiday cheer, welcomed us and made plenty of room for us to spred our wills documents out and to charge our laptops. The morning crowd was slow, but as soon as lunchtime rolled around and bellies began to fill, many more people began making appointments to have last will and testament, advanced directive, power of attorney, and health care power of attorney documents executed. We were put in pairs of two or three to work together to help each client with their specific needs. Every group was able to meet with clients, and we ended the day with 18 clients served and over 20 documents executed. Each client left the building feeling both relieved and happy that such important documents could now be checked off of their to-do lists.


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No Comments | Posted by Miranda A. Wodarski on Wed. January 4, 2017 2:00 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2016

Alumnus Feature: Deonte' Thomas '05

Deonte
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law:

Deonte’ L. Thomas, Class of 2005

Place of employment:

Wake County Public Defender’s Office

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Judicial Sentencing & Actual Innocence - Classes Ken Broun - Professor

Pro Bono experience in law school:

The Innocence Project/Law 4 Us/Orange County Public Defender's Office/Various Pro Bono Winter Projects

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

I have always felt the need to try and give back whenever possible. Without a few key decisions in my life, I could have easily been in the same position as my clients, so I have always wanted to try and “pay it forward” as much as I can.

Outside of my “normal” job serving indigent clients, I often attend community focused events that attempt to help my clients once they are outside of the judicial system. Recently I worked with a large pro bono community to help people expunge their records and restore their licenses. I have also been a speaker or a mentee for many youth focused non-profits here in Raleigh. My work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters has also been very fulfilling.

How has your Pro Bono work benefited you? (ie. your career, business development if in private practice, professional development, networking, etc.)?

Through my pro bono work I have met many different lawyers doing widely different segments of law, but with similar mindsets on life and the changes we would like to see in the world. Doing pro bono work reinvigorates me and reminds me of how there is a huge community of people that are working to make this world a better place and that is especially helpful when I become jaded or disenchanted with my “regular” work.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Tue. December 27, 2016 4:31 PM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumnus Feature: Marty Rosenbluth '08

Marty Rosenbluth
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law:

Marty Rosenbluth, Class of 2008

Area of practice:

Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Toss up between RRWA I with Ruth McKinney and RRWA II with Jim Sheridan. I’m a law nerd. I can’t help it.

Pro Bono experience in law school:

My pro bono experience was pretty varied, including working on several immigrant rights related projects and being part of Amnesty International’s observer mission in Northern Israel during the war between Hezbollah and Israel.

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

I had been involved in various social justice issues for over two decades before attending law school. I went to law school to add more tools to my tool kit. It was super exciting to be able to put some of these tools to work through doing pro bono work while I was still in law school.

What does your current Pro Bono practice look like?

I recently spent one month volunteering in a family detention center in Texas, working with refugees from Central America, and five weeks in Greece working with refugees from Syria and other countries who were stranded in refugee camps on the island of Lesvos. In both places I was helping refugees, who were fleeing from extreme danger in their own countries, to seek safety and asylum for themselves and their families.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Wed. November 30, 2016 8:00 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumna Feature: Rachel M. Blunk, '11

Rachel M. Blunk
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law: Rachel M. Blunk, 2011

Place of employment: Sharpless & Stavola, P.A., Greensboro, NC

Area of practice: Business Law - Commercial Litigation and Commercial Transactions

Favorite class/professor in law school: Favorite is a challenging word. There were several classes I really enjoyed for a variety of reasons. 1. I had a ton of fun in Copyright Law with Professor Deborah Gerhardt. 2. I was challenged by Antitrust with Professor Andrew Chin. 3. I found Bankruptcy with Professor Elizabeth Gibson and Insurance Law with Professor Donald Hornstein incredibly useful post-graduation.

Pro Bono experience in law school: My Pro Bono experience in law school was heavily focused on clinics with Lambda and other LGBTQ related work. I also had the opportunity to participate in the law school’s first divorce clinic, which was led by Professor Beth Posner.

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work? I have always tried to be involved in my community in one way or another. After entering the profession it was a natural fit for me to use my new skills to assist members of the statewide and local community.

What does your current Pro Bono practice look like? Much of my Pro-Bono work is accomplished through partnering with a variety of organizations which provide clinics to different communities. I have worked with the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Bar Association, various law schools, the Campaign for Southern Equality, my local bar, and Legal Aid to provide a wide variety of services to communities across the state. At these clinics we have provided a wide range of services ranging from will drafting and health care power of attorney drafting to providing advice on expunctions. I also work with a variety of charitable boards and provide them with Pro Bono advice in my capacity as a board member.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Mon. October 3, 2016 3:49 PM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumna Feature: Joan Shreffler Dinsmore '06

Joan Dinsmore, 2006
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law: Joan Shreffler Dinsmore, 2006

Place of employment: McGuireWoods LLP, Raleigh

Area of practice: Product & Consumer Litigation

Favorite class/professor in law school: Federal Jurisdiction with Professor Elizabeth Gibson

Pro Bono experience in law school: Unfortunately, not much. I worked all three years of law school, so I did not have much time for anything except my job and studying.

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work? My first pro bono case fell into my lap by accident in 2007. I heard about the sister of a secretary at my former firm who was being treated horribly by the owner of the San Diego restaurant where she worked: she was being made to work for tips only (in violation of the law), he changed her name in the system so the checks she printed for customers included things like “Thanks from your lazy server,” and was forced to do personal errands for the owner. I waitressed for years in high school, college, and law school, and I knew how hard the job can be even in the best of circumstances. In her situation, it was made worse by her total lack of bargaining power. She was in her 40s with little education, and had a daughter to raise. In San Diego, jobs at the “better” restaurants went to young college students, so this woman was stuck. I felt like I had to take on the case, even knowing nothing about labor law in California. After several years of hard-fought litigation, I obtained a settlement that allowed the client to go to school. She got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and now works as a counselor in Austin, Texas. I still keep up with her.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Sun. August 28, 2016 10:28 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumnus Feature: Tod M. Leaven '10

Tod M. Leaven

Place of employment: Grimes Teich Anderson, LLP

Area of practice: Veterans Law

Favorite class/professor in law school: Congress and the Presidency/ Michael Gerhardt

Pro Bono experience in law school: NC Department of Agriculture, Wills and estate work for elderly, Assisted veterans with claims

What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work? I wanted to do pro-bono work long before I ever went to law school. Just a little free assistance can go a long way to those who need it the most, regardless if it is legal, medical, social, or occupational.

What does your current Pro Bono practice look like? I just completed the initial phase of a pro-bono clinic for homeless veterans. Assisted by two other attorneys and UNC Law’s VALOR student organization, I am working to upgrade less-than-honorable military discharges so homeless veterans can better access housing and employment. I also assist the local Veterans Treatment Court with any discharge upgrades needed and routinely assist veterans of low means better navigate the VA healthcare system and find employment.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Mon. August 1, 2016 9:00 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumna Feature: LeeAnne Quattrucci '06

LeeAnne Quattrucci
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law:

LeeAnne Quattrucci, 2006

Place of employment:

The Law Office of LeeAnne Quattrucci, PA

Area of practice:

Family and juvenile law

Favorite class/professor in law school:

Constitutional Law with Dean Boger

Pro Bono experience in law school:

My pro bono experiences in law school were vast and varied.

One of the most valuable and rewarding experiences was handling Domestic Violence Protective Order hearings during my 3L year. It was scary but very eye opening and extremely helpful in honing my litigation skills.

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

Simply stated: People, who cannot afford it, need legal help with real life, big time, serious issues.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Thu. June 9, 2016 11:23 AM
Categories: Alumni Features

Alumna Feature: Nicole Quallen '10

Nicole Quallen, Class of 2010
Name and year of graduation from UNC Law:

Nicole Quallen, 2010

Place of employment:

Two Families Law

Area of practice:

Family law and domestic violence

Favorite class/professor in law school:

So tough! Probably Con Law with Michael Gerhardt.

Pro Bono experience in law school:

I didn’t do nearly enough pro bono in law school. I did my one project per year – some landlord tenant work and a trademark project. I don’t think I felt competent enough, or understood what I could do until I was practicing.

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

I remember a very inspiring “speech” that Chris Brook, my RRWA professor and now Legal Director of the NC ACLU chapter, gave on the last day of our class. He passionately talked about his view of the importance of using a law degree to help folks who need legal help, and implored us all to do whatever we could as pro bono work. He talked about the privilege of having a J.D. and the responsibility of pro bono that comes with the licensure. He believed it and practiced it and it spoke to me.

What does your current Pro Bono practice look like?

I provide family law or DV counsel to folks who can’t afford it. I try to work with 1-3 pro bono clients at any given time and help them with all sorts of issues – getting domestic violence protection orders, sorting out child custody, seeking child support, and terminating the parental rights of absent or abusive parents. Lots of it is advising, and then drafting documents or going to court when necessary.


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Posted by James G. Wudel on Sun. May 1, 2016 9:50 PM
Categories: Alumni Features

Protecting Our Vote: Students Reflect on Their Day Running the Hotline

“What, So What, Now What?”  The day started with a debriefing and reflection time with Mark Dorosin, Managing Attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights.  Dorosin reiterated that the work we did yesterday was beneficial, but in order to make a long-term impact it was crucial for us to think through the events of the day and discuss what changes could be made for the future.  The what: student volunteers shared what problems they ran into, compelling stories they heard, and the emotional moments they felt.  The so what: we discussed some of the common problems, and teased through particular stories to understand what made them compelling and/or emotional.  The now what: we thought through how the common problems could be better addressed in the future as well as how to handle the stress and emotions we were feeling throughout the day.

The National Coordinator for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Trevor Ostbye, led the afternoon session.  Some of the student volunteers listened to the remaining voicemails from the North Carolina Election Protection Hotline as well as voicemails from the Election Protection Hotline in other states.  Call logs were combed through by another group of student volunteers who made note of which calls should receive follow up.  

At the end of this project, all of the student volunteers left feeling fulfilled and believing that they truly made a difference.  


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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Fri. April 1, 2016 8:29 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2016: Election Protection
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