Hickory Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Sheri Dickson '19

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Hickory Group
Students on the Hickory Trip work with attorney supervisors to counsel seniors on wills and advanced directives

As we began the training process to prepare for our Pro Bono trip to Hickory, North Carolina it was impossible to imagine the tangible real life impact our work could have on the local community. It is so easy to lose sight of why you actually came to law school as you prepare daily and weekly for classes, and ultimately for your final exams for the semester. Taking a Pro Bono trip, like the one to Hickory is a remarkable way of putting everything into perspective and making use of what we are learning in school.

We started out our first day at the Legal Aid of North Carolina, Morganton office in Burke County. There, Andrew Cogdell ‘85 led the volunteers by patiently providing guidance as we drafted wills, powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney, and living will documents for the clients. I think we were all grateful that our first day was the lighter of the three days as we became more familiar with the documents and how to explain them to our clients. At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to reflect on our experience and to collectively learn more. We were also able to go to dinner as a group and learn more about each other. I personally enjoyed the chance to get to know some of the 1Ls and 2Ls I hadn’t had the opportunity to interact with before the trip.

The second day of our trip we had the wills clinic in Catawba County, in a local church. It was great to see that our work could have such a meaningful impact on the wonderful people in that community. The clients were grateful and seemed to walk out of there with a weight lifted off of their shoulders. Sometimes it became very emotional as a client was facing their own mortality but ultimately they all wanted to take the burden off their loved ones they would be leaving behind.

The final day we spent in Caldwell County at a library in Lenoir, North Carolina. It was a very busy day and the reality set in that at times you have to be aware of the potential of  undue influence on your clients. Learning to navigate the situation by separating your client from his or her family members so you can ensure their specific wishes are implemented, is an important lesson to learn, especially early on in your legal career.

This was such a rewarding experience and I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in the Hickory area. Hearing stories about their lives, their families, and about why it was so important to them to have everything in order was amazing. As we study law and go through the process of learning the elements, it is easy to lose sight of the human component. While it was a great opportunity to gain experience in preparing legal documents, client counseling, and interviewing, I think the best part was that we were able to provide meaningful assistance to clients who might not otherwise have the means to hire an attorney. I think we all enjoyed our time together and are thankful for the opportunity. I only wish I had been able to participate in a Pro Bono trip sooner.

Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Mon. March 25, 2019 2:55 PM
Categories: Spring Break 2019
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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