Reflections from Cherokee: By Erin Wilson

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

Civil Clinic in Swain County

For the civil clinic, I traveled with half of the UNC Law students to Swain County. We worked in teams to complete divorce documents and help clients with criminal expungements.

During the day, my partner and I worked with two clients. One client was seeking a divorce. Because the client had not been separated from her spouse for the amount of time required in North Carolina, she was not able to officially file for divorce, but we were able to help her fill out accurate divorce paperwork. We could sense the weight lifted off of her shoulders after having completed the paperwork. Some clients that were there had been separated from their partners for over ten years but had not had the means or time to actually file for divorce. It was a meaningful experience to be able to help clients in a process that can be overwhelming.

We also helped a client with criminal expunctions. The criminal expunctions were one of the things I enjoyed working on the most because even criminal charges that have been dismissed still show up on background checks. Helping expunge records can open doors for clients that otherwise would be prevented from renting a house or getting hired for a job.

Tsali Manor

On the third day of the trip, we participated in a wills clinic at a local senior center, helping supervising attorneys draft wills, power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney documents.

Even though it was daunting to prepare these important documents for clients, the support from my partner and the supervising attorneys made the task much more manageable. It was a methodical process filling out the documents, but we wanted to make sure that we captured the clients’ wishes precisely and in a way that would be legally binding. It also gave us the chance to learn about the clients’ families and life in Cherokee. I felt good knowing that I had hopefully left our clients with a greater peace of mind. 

In addition to the clinics, our trip coordinators made sure we got to take full advantage of being in Cherokee. We got to tour the Cherokee tribal court. It was cool getting to learn the differences and similarities between the Cherokee legal system and the U.S. legal system. One thing I noticed was how much the judges there love the work they are doing. We also got to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. We could have spent hours there but even though we were short on time, I learned so much about the Cherokee history and culture.


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