Blog Archive: 2010

Why isn’t this what we do every day in law school?

The Wills Trip has been great so far, and only leaves me wondering: Why don’t we do this every day in law school? I have spent over 3,456 hours of my life in law school daydreaming or watching other class members shop for shoes while professors pontificate about legal issues. I have learned a few things, mostly in the 2-3 weeks preceding exams, but also when the occasionally riveting issue pops up; however, over the course of writing three wills for clients, I feel like I have learned a lot more about practicing law than I ever did through weeks of class.


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No Comments | Posted by Robert William Lamb (Rob) on Sat. October 23, 2010 1:23 PM
Categories: Fall Break 2010

56th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

While it is hard to pin point one moment of the trip that I consider my favorite, one experience sticks out in my mind. May 17 was the first day we participated in collecting data concerning the state of the education system in Indianola, Mississippi. As I learned about the severe racial disparities, extremely high drop out rates, corruption, unfair practices, and lack of resources I could only think of one thing-today was the 56th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and we are still facing similar issues concerning race and education in our country. This thought not only made me incredibly disheartened, but it made me realize that the work my fellow students and I were doing was more important than ever. As if to hammer this thought in more deeply, two of the people I met that day, both Caucasian females, expressed severely pessimistic and racist attitudes toward the school system and the racial divide. They felt, to put it mildly, that "it is what it is, and that is how it's always been and always will be." As she tried to impart her "wisdom" on me, I responded with the fact that if many people in our history shared the same ideas that she was expressing, the world would be a very different place. I also told her that, while she was entitled to have her own opinions, I knew that change was not only possible, but it was inevitable and impending. Despite her pessimistic comments, I walked out of her shop with a newly renovated hope and energy to continue our work knowing that somewhere down the line it was going to have an impact.


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No Comments | Posted by Lauren Anne Gebhard on Thu. June 3, 2010 4:21 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Community Lawyering Model

I was impressed by the Community Lawyering Model used by MCJ which emphasizes the need for residents of the community to play an active role in developing solutions for their problems. I think sometimes underprivileged groups become frustrated when attorneys try to diagnose their ailments and the best course of action to remedy it. This frustration is made worse when the attorneys are from outside the community and as a result, fail to understand regional and cultural nuances. The Community Lawyering Model sees attorneys as facilitators who help execute the community's suggested solution rather than allowing the attorneys to propose the solution. I like this model because I think the residents will be more invested in solving their problems if they played a substantial role in coming up with the solution.

MCJ took this concern into consideration when it decided to survey parents about the school district and their concerns prior to deciding on a solution. The survey asked parents if they were open to new discipline policies and if they had any suggestions. Every parent I surveyed seemed eager to help and answer questions because I think they realized what we were trying to do. They realized we were trying to make a change and we valued their opinion in making these changes. The main skill I will take away from this community lawyering model is the ability to listen intently to clients. In order for clients to be able to contribute to the solution, attorneys must listen to the needs and concerns so that they can be incorporated. Superior listening skills are integral to being a true advocate which helps advance the community lawyering model.


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No Comments | Posted by Erika Nicole Jones on Thu. May 27, 2010 3:46 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Education Law Project

Law students are also assisting MCJ with an education law project. Students spent the past two days surveying parents' experiences with public county schools in various Delta school districts. They spoke with parents and grandparents regarding issues such as involvement in parent-teacher organizations, special education services, methods of communication with school officials, and discipline policies. Students canvassed retail stores, government offices, courthouses and other community locations, learning more about schools in the Delta area.


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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Thu. May 20, 2010 11:37 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Catfish on Parade

Catfish on Parade is a public art project in Belzoni, Miss. Pictured above with our group is "D. Fin-der, Esquire," sponsored by Garrard and Trotter law firm.


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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Wed. May 19, 2010 10:00 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

Greetings from the Mississippi Delta!

Eight students in UNC School of Law's pro bono program made the trip to Jackson, Miss., to collaborate with the Mississippi Center for Justice this week. The Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and pro bono attorneys, the center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.

On Monday, we met with center staff attorneys, partners and community advocates to learn more about legal issues the Mississippi Delta community is facing. The Center is involved in a civil suit against a housing authority that dramatically increased the rent of over 300 tenants without notice. A majority of these tenants are elderly, disabled, low-income or unemployed and are living on fixed incomes. The impromptu rent increase is now forcing many to leave the homes they have known for years.

We drove two hours north of Jackson to Cleveland, Miss., where many of the tenants named as plaintiffs on the lawsuit reside. The goal was to collect information and signatures from as many plaintiffs as possible, in response to interrogatories filed by the defendants. When we arrived, there was already a group waiting for us outside the church. We quickly set up workstations and students began meeting one-on-one with plaintiffs to gather data and answer questions. It was a great opportunity for them to see their civil procedure class come to life by gaining practical experience answering interrogatories.


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No Comments | Posted by Katherine H. Kershaw on Wed. May 19, 2010 6:15 PM
Categories: Mississippi Trip 2010

The Pro Bono program is exposing more and more of the future leaders of our State...

Attempting to solve the land-loss problems that afflict the people of Eastern North Carolina during our week there presented some daunting challenges. The low income residents in that area suffer from a pervasive lack of access to legal services caused by deeply rooted inequities in our society. Our trip, although fueled by the zeal of dedicated, motivated, and intelligent students, could only hope to provide some mitigation of an issue that finds its genesis in the beginnings of our nation. With that said, the question that I always wrestle with when internally assessing these trips presented itself: What is the point? How are we, by taking a mere four days to prepare wills and other advanced directives to a small group of individuals actually making a difference?


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No Comments | Posted by David R. Boaz on Thu. April 29, 2010 10:49 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2010 (Eastern)

I believe that our client left feeling empowered and with a peace of mind.

This entire week was a fantastic experience! We had such an awesome crew! I really learned a lot about client interaction and was able to connect to my experiences when I first started teaching in rural Eastern North Carolina. On Monday, my friend Carla and I were able to work with the wife in a couple who both showed up to write their wills. Initially, our client seemed hesitant to share information (i.e. SS #) and seemed to doubt that the information conveyed would truly remain confidential. We made an effort to connect with her about some smaller topics like the weather, the fact that my mom drove the same type of car, etc. As we proceeded through the interview, our client really started to open up. It was neat to see our relationship develop and to have her ask us questions about why we went to law school and what we hoped to do with our careers. I felt like a bond was formed throughout the course of the morning, and then we successfully executed her will in the afternoon. We worked with another pair of students who were writing the husband’s will and it was helpful to collaborate with them. It was very rewarding to see so much progress at the end of the day, both with developing that relationship and with creating the will. I believe that our client left feeling empowered and with a peace of mind. I hope that I can come back again next year, and would also like to possibly help to develop a site in Halifax and Northampton counties, which is where I used to teach.


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No Comments | Posted by Lauren E. Felter on Mon. April 5, 2010 10:47 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2010 (Eastern)

From my clients, I was able to feel both the seriousness of the service we were providing...

Going into this trip I was both very nervous and very excited. As excited as I was to get out into the real world and put my new skills to use, I was just as nervous that I didn’t know enough. The second day of the trip our site had the most clients, two of which my partner Bethan and I served. We had two people who knew exactly what they wanted and what they wanted was very simple – all of their belongings would go to their children and they did NOT want life saving measures to be taken. The thing that hit me the most about working with these people was how sure they were with all of their decisions. These questions we had to ask them were not easy, I myself had no idea how to answer them. And yet our clients weren’t sad like I thought some of them would be, they instead were happy to have the peace of mind that all of their affairs were now in order. From my clients, I was able to feel both the seriousness of the service we were providing and the relief that this was one less thing they had to think about.


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No Comments | Posted by Jennifer L. Anderson on Mon. April 5, 2010 10:46 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2010 (Eastern)

I was especially humbled by the tangible effect that we, even as law students, can have on the community around us.

Prior to this trip, I expected to perform fulfilling pro bono work, interact with clients different than myself, as well as explore parts of Eastern North Carolina near my hometown of Wilmington, NC. These expectations were certainly realized during our trip.


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No Comments | Posted by Zachary Wayne Long on Mon. April 5, 2010 10:44 AM
Categories: Spring Break 2010 (Eastern)
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