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

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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.

Although I came to Cherokee still stressed about the uncertainty of my final grades, the sensations of mental exhaustion and test anxiety quickly evaporated the moment I began to interact with clients. These amazing people, who are truly in need of proper legal representation, expected us to solve their very personal problems and were depending on us to provide a great service. Upon arriving in Cherokee we were told that it should be our standard to provide a service that is as thorough as a top law firm. Although I am not sure if a collection of law students could ever meet such a lofty standard, I am so proud to have been part of a group so committed to providing the top level of care to clients in need. 

Dean Brinkley, right, helping Michael Peretz, left, prepare client

During the legal clinics, my group partner and I crafted two wills for two separate families and solved one complex issue involving a family’s tribal lands and how they wanted it distributed to their next of kin. To put it simply: we would not have been able to do this without the assistance of Dean Brinkley who dedicated an entire day out of his schedule to join us in Cherokee. I am so grateful that he took so much time to work with me on a variety of issues--I learned so much from him in such a short period of time on how to best draft someone’s last will and testament and look forward to applying his words of wisdom again in the future. It’s so great to know that we have a Dean at Carolina Law who is committed to not only maintaining UNC Law’s prestigious reputation but is also just as committed to spending time with students and guiding us as we apply our newly learned skills. Furthermore, my partner and I also helped a client who was in the midst of a child custody battle. Although we found ourselves unprepared to help her navigate her complex situation, I am proud that we were able to refer her to proper legal assistance via a local attorney who is willing and able to help her moving forward. 

Even though I took so much from participating in the legal clinics, learning about Cherokee culture left the biggest impact on me. Our amazing group leaders, Rana and Kelly, set up tours for us to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the newly constructed Cherokee Tribal Court. Upon visiting these sites, we all learned so much about the Cherokee people. Although I left these sites incredibly moved by the tribe’s spirit and determination and with a desire to want to do more to help them, I left somewhat disappointed in myself for not knowing more about our country’s indigenous populations, especially those who lived just a few hours away from where I went to undergraduate school (Wake Forest). Because of this trip I plan to take our law school’s course on Federal Tribal Lands, an incredibly complex class on an issue that is so pervasive to Cherokee culture, so I can be more prepared to help members of the tribe once I graduate from Carolina Law. Furthermore, I hope to participate in this trip to Cherokee again before I graduate and I also encourage my fellow classmates (both current and future) to apply as well!

Posted by Rana J. Odeh on Fri. January 12, 2018 4:13 PM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2017

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