My purpose in coming to law school was to make use of my experience as an educator to serve the people of North Carolina in a different capacity; the Fall Break Wills Project allowed this hope to become reality.
This trip was my first opportunity to see the partnership between UNC’s Pro Bono program and Legal Aid in action, working to bolster the legal health of the communities we serve by marrying law students’ needs for practical legal experience with North Carolina’s growing need for low-cost, client-centered legal services.
Client interaction is nothing new to me, thanks to my background in adult basic education, however the difference in the services provided is profound. Providing educational services is a long-term endeavor undertaken in partnership with a student over a protracted period of time. Though the impact of learning is real, it is slow to come and sometimes difficult to see.
An educator often never sees the fruits of her work with her students. While the legal repercussions won’t become apparent until the documents we created come into effect, perhaps not for many years, the impact of the work is immediate. Our clients came to us amidst a certain legal state of affairs and left in quite another. Reflecting on this difference led me to some compelling conclusions. With my students, it was never certain what the impact of our work would be; with our clients this weekend, the results were immediately apparent:
Each will drawn up is one fewer burden on grieving families.
Each power of attorney created by this project means one fewer urgent matter on a future court docket.
Each document means one more connection forged between the legal profession and the community it purports to serve.
Rights unexercised are impotent; laws protecting such rights are rendered purposeless. By eliminating barriers to basic legal services, projects such as the wills trip empower individuals to take advantage of the full protection of the laws of the state, fostering the participation of all in our civil society.
Posted by Charlotte R. Stewart on Sat. October 29, 2011 12:01 PM
Fall Break 2011