Blog Posts: General

Hickory Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Jake Wright '20

Before departing on our trip to Hickory, we conducted a training program to learn how to draft forms in order to create a will, statutory power of attorney form, medical power of attorney form, and a living will. Through an intensive, yet invigorating process, we learned not only how to perform the required legal work, but also how to build rapport with clients in order to be as compassionate and caring as possible.

We arrived in Morganton, NC on the morning of March 11th to begin our work with Legal Aid of North Carolina. After a brief lecture in order to recap our prior training, we divided into teams of two and began seeing clients under the supervision of attorneys. We worked with clients primarily from the Morganton area, and many were relieved to get their wills drafted. However, our work with such individuals was not a mere legal transaction. Instead, many clients took time to discuss their personal lives, and asked about our interests in the legal field. Through such rapport and legal work, we were able to utilize our education to provide a tangible benefit to members within that community. Afterward, we retired to our hotel in nearby Hickory, NC, and ate a delicious dinner at the local Mellow Mushroom.

The next morning, we drove to Bethel Church in Hickory, and performed a full day of legal service to local clients. As a Hickory native, this was a particularly memorable experience for me, for it provided me the opportunity to perform valuable legal service in the community in which I have spent my entire life. With the assistance of Legal Aid, we drafted wills for many clients. Personally, I was able to build a strong connection with several clients, and enjoyed sharing memories with them of my childhood in the area. After completing our work, we enjoyed an alumni dinner with a UNC law graduate, who provided our group advice with our legal careers.

On our last morning, we drove to Lenoir, NC, a city 20 miles to the north of Hickory. We performed a morning session in which we drafted wills for clients local to the Lenoir area. By drawing upon our experience from the past two days, we were able to efficiently draft the requested documents and perform our legal services to clients within the area. Upon completing our session with clients, we discussed as a group what we learned from our trip. Personally, I was very grateful for Legal Aid and UNC Pro Bono for allowing me to perform valuable legal services to clients within my hometown.

After finishing up our group session, we enjoyed one last delicious meal at a North Carolina culinary staple: Cookout. We returned to Chapel Hill with significant gratitude for the opportunity to help clients within the Hickory area, and are eager to return in the near future.

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Thu. March 28, 2019 9:07 AM
Categories: General, Spring Break 2019

Greenville Spring Break Pro Bono Trip- By Cayla Rodney ‘21

Students Chloe Altieri
Students Chloe Altieri '21, Josh Smith '20, Olivia Perry '20, and Cayla Rodney '21 research disaster relief cases at Legal Aid of North Carolina- Greenville. 

During our pre-trip training in Chapel Hill, none of us could have imagined the unforgettable experience we would have in just a few short days. Our training consisted of a quick crash course on hurricane relief efforts, landlord-tenant rights during natural disasters, and some of the challenges facing eastern North Carolina.

We arrived in Greenville, NC the morning of March 11 to begin our first day at Legal Aid of North Carolina. After  meeting the Legal Aid staff, we enthusiastically began our research on how we could best assist these communities hardest hit by Hurricane Florence last September. To begin our research, we broke up into teams of two to focus on the various pieces such as the communities affected and the people involved. Our whole day flew by as we dove deeper into the situation and excitedly reported back to supervising attorneys when we found some new, important evidence. At the end of our first day, we left the office buzzing about the incredible progress we made. Then, to celebrate, we had a true southern dinner at Parkers Barbeque.

On our second day, we continued our research. This experience allowed us all to hone our skills in combing through public records, compiling data, and putting it in a readable form for our supervising attorneys. After we sent in our research, we were able to see the networking capabilities of Legal Aid of North Carolina when they are faced with a huge project such as this one. Over twenty legal aid attorneys across the state discussed our research over conference calls to figure out the best next steps for their clients and to give us new topics to look into.

Following our second day at Legal Aid, we went and visited Judge Callaway at the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina. As an alumnus, Judge Callaway generously welcomed us on a tour of the courthouse and gave us invaluable insight on his career. Finally, we finished up day two with an UNC Law School alumni dinner where we had five former graduates join us. While at dinner, the attorneys shared advice on how to navigate law school, the bar exam, and a successful legal career. All of us were extremely grateful for the opportunity to hear about their experiences.

On our last day at Legal Aid, we finished up our research and began to reach out to clients. After compiling all of the information surrounding this situation, all of us found it incredibly impactful to hear what was going on from the people actually affected. During these phone calls, we collected facts from each client and heard about their circumstances and how their lives were impacted by the hurricane.

As we finished up our final calls and said our goodbyes to the attorneys at Legal Aid, we left Greenville with an immense amount of gratitude for the experience and a better understand of the unique challenges that Eastern North Carolina faces.

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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Wed. March 20, 2019 2:23 PM
Categories: General, Spring Break 2019

Lumberton Spring Break Trip- Cultural Learning and Experiences

On a cold and rainy spring break morning, 11 students from UNC School of Law departed from our home on the hill and caravanned south to the town of Lumberton, North Carolina.
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Posted by Allison Standard Constance on Tue. March 28, 2017 9:43 AM
Categories: General, Spring Break 2017

Election Protection: The War Room

The War Room
In the fight to defend all North Carolinians’ right to vote, the March 15 primary was the first major battle of the year. And as issues arose across the state, UNC Law School served as the headquarters for the war room. UNC Law Pro Bono volunteers manned phone calls from voters from sun-up to sun-down, equipping them with information, answering questions, and mobilizing election protection field workers to address voting administration violations statewide.
The terrain of the voting process has shifted dynamically with the recent passage of legislation requiring voters to show ID at the polls. The controversial voter ID law stipulates that all NC voters must show photo identification before voting, but it also includes several notable exceptions. For instance, those without ID are permitted to vote via provisional ballot if they provide their date of birth and last four digits of their social security number and sign a form citing a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining an ID. Numerous other exceptions and requirements apply (see the Election Protection FAQ’s), creating a seemingly endless array of possible answers to the question, “How do I vote?”
Yet that’s exactly the question the UNC Pro Bono team answered on Tuesday. Over the course of 14 consecutive hours, our volunteers fielded 881 phone calls from voters and poll volunteers with questions, complaints, and frustrations. In conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Democracy NC, and the UNC Law Center for Civil Rights, the Pro Bono volunteers empowered North Carolinians from every corner of the state to overcome obstacles and exercise the fundamental right to vote. 
The stories that came through the phone lines were both harrowing and uplifting. 
Alex Snow, a 1L from Kernersville, NC, recalled her most memorable interaction, “A woman called because her son has MS and really wanted to vote, but didn't think he would be physically able to do it alone.  She had received incorrect information that in order for him to vote he had to go by himself.  When I told her that she would be able to go with him she was thrilled and very thankful for the hotline.”
La-Deidre Matthews, a 1L from Fayetteville, NC, reflected on her experience assisting voters, saying, “Collectively, I am impressed by the callers' dedication to vote. From a nurse that was afraid she wouldn't be able to make it to her precinct in time after a long shift, to a gentleman willing to visit both his old and new polling places (a considerable distance apart) to make sure his vote was counted. It is a great contrast to the "apathetic citizen" narrative I typically hear accusing people of not exercising their right to vote.”
Over the course of a long day, when Pro Bono volunteers could have otherwise joined their classmates on Spring Break tropical vacations, the disenchantment of apparent voter suppression gave way to a renewed faith in the people of the Old North State. The dedication of the election protection team was surpassed only by that of the voters themselves, whose indefatigable commitment to casting their ballots brought out the best of people’s qualities.
Tyler Abboud, a 1L from Denver, encapsulated the sentiment at the end of the day, recounting one of his conversations, “A guy called from Asheville who was concerned about the way the people running the polls were trained and whether or not they were asking the right questions about ID's. Though he was allowed to vote and ultimately had no problems, he was concerned that people would be turned away or discouraged if they were overly questioned. He was not a volunteer or anything, just a concerned voter. To me, the interaction was indicative of the selfless attitude I've seen in many North Carolinians and the overall call just left me feeling positive.”
                The fight for equal access to the voting booth will be a long saga in the history of the state and the nation. However, the work of dedicated law students who empowered hundreds of individuals to exercise their right to vote on Tuesday is exactly the type of incremental change that will culminate in a brighter future for North Carolina voters. 
                Next stop, November.  

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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Wed. March 23, 2016 1:53 PM
Categories: General

Reflecting On: "Practically Transitioned: A Pro Bono Networking Event"

          As 3Ls, a question constantly occupying our minds is “what’s next?” For some, this may be a career in private practice or public interest, while for others it may be a clerkship, fellowship, or non-traditional legal career path. Whether we know our destinations or not, in a few short months the law school’s safety net will fall away and everything we learned will be tested as we transition into the legal professionals Carolina Law has taught us to be.  While this can be a strange and unfamiliar process to some of us, it is encouraging to know that the Pro Bono Program is here to support us “Practically Transition” into life as UNC Law School Alumni.

          The Practically Transitioned event on February 9, 2016, represented everything we have come to love about UNC Law and the UNC Law Pro Bono Program. The food was great, the conversation was engaging, and the celebration of our accomplishments was beyond inspiring. The Ackland Art Museum was a wonderful host to the 3L and attorney attendees, and the beautiful backdrop of the museum only enhanced the words spoken by UNC Law’s Dean Brinkley and Justice Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Beasley spoke of her deep and real understanding of the challenges facing North Carolina, and how our Pro Bono work can bridge the gaps between unmet legal needs and the services we provide. Her thoughtful remarks not only encouraged members of the 3L class, but also served to remind us of the positive change we can make, both across the state and nationwide, by continuing to commit ourselves to Pro Bono work when we become members of the bar.        

          Throughout the night, students were also able to speak with Carolina Law Alumni and friends from various practice areas about their Pro Bono experiences in law school and about how the skills they developed from those experiences enhanced their careers. It was extremely refreshing to meet and speak with so many attorneys who have effectively incorporated Pro Bono work into their lives and careers.

          At the end of the night one thing was clear— Carolina Law’s commitment to its community and public service is unparalleled. Students, faculty, and alumni are united by their common passions for giving back through Pro Bono work. Carolina Law not only encourages this type of service, but also cultivates a culture of it. This culture is evidenced by many accomplishments, but nothing crystallizes it better than the Class of 2016 reaching 90.9% class participation in the Pro Bono Program. It is such an honor to be part of the first-ever graduating class to reach this level of participation, and it is exciting to think about the amazing things that will continue to come from our dedicated pee

           So what’s next for the Class of 2016? While some know what they will be doing next year, and others are still figuring it out, it is clear that the UNC Law Pro Bono Program is here to help us “Practically Transition” into life as Alumni engaged in Pro Bono service.  

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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Fri. February 26, 2016 7:00 PM
Categories: General

Reflecting On: Pro Bono Week

            Pro Bono Week is an annual event on the Program’s calendar focusing on giving back to the people who make our Program what it is: the students. Pro Bono Week is, as the name suggests, a weeklong celebration made up of several events and programs created with UNC Law students in mind. When I began planning Pro Bono Week, I knew it was a special opportunity for the Pro Bono Board to thank students for their hard work and dedication to providing Pro Bono services for citizens of North Carolina. I did not know how this event would change my perspective on Pro Bono work, particularly how UNC Law students interact with their Pro Bono work.


            My vision for this year’s Pro Bono Week centered on the skills students receive from Pro Work. The Pro Bono Program has identified the following skills as being developed through Pro Bono projects: client communication; statutory interpretation; community engagement; document review; due diligence; trial experience & strategy; professional and interpersonal skills; and legal research and writing. These skills are not only critical to doing Pro Bono work, but also critical to being a good lawyer. To draw attention to these skills, one of the events during Pro Bono Week highlighted them visually. The name of the event “Pro Bono Is...” asked students to complete the sentence, “Pro Bono Is...” on a piece of pre-cut colored paper. Students’ responses were used to create a visual representation of what Pro Bono is to students at UNC Law. The old well was used as a backdrop for student responses, and the steps of the old well were made of the skills Pro Bono work gives students. Making the steps out of the skills language worked on numerous fronts. The final image represented the role of Pro Bono work in developing skills, which are the foundation of any legal practice.


            Students’ responses framed the old well image, and the answers were astonishing to me. What I expected from students were statements expressing how Pro Bono work complimented their professional growth, or allowed them to receive practical experience during law school. Some responses followed that line of answers, while others focused on the impact of Pro Bono’s on students’ personal lives. It was the latter responses that I will take with me after graduation. Pro Bono’s impact on the lives of students speaks to the heart of what Pro Bono really is, as well as the heart of Carolina Law. I could fill a whole blog post full of these responses, with answers like: “Pro Bono is...Life;” “Pro Bono is...the reason I sleep at night;” “Pro Bono those to whom much has been given, much is also expected in return;” and “Pro Bono is...a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.” These are only a small number of the responses, showing students’ passion and empathy for members of their community and providing unmet legal needs to people in need. These responses also get to the heart of the Pro Bono Program at UNC Law: showing our community that Pro Bono has the dual benefits of skill development and community betterment.


            Pro Bono Week is a celebration of the students, showcasing their hard work providing legal services to the people of North Carolina. We celebrate not only UNC Law students’ service, but the impact Pro Bono work has on students’ lives, and the lives of the people they help. It is a simple reminder that Pro Bono is everywhere; Pro Bono is for everyone; and in our global community we can make an impact on a large scale. 

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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Fri. February 19, 2016 12:14 PM
Categories: General

Reflecting On: Winter Break Project Sign-Ups

                  It was 4pm the afternoon before Winter Break Pro Bono Project sign-ups. I was on my way to class, walking from the CDO down toward the Rotunda. As I got closer to 4004, I saw a cluster of students moving chairs and tables around in the hallway. I walked up, and, going on my suspicions, asked if they were there for winter break project sign-ups. They replied that they were. They were there literally 15 hours before sign-ups were supposed to start, and they were planning on studying, eating, and sleeping there for that long to get the Pro Bono projects they wanted. I was surprised, but more so ecstatic. Honestly, I had been nervous about pretty much everything through the process of planning the sign-ups – that I wouldn’t get projects, students would not like the projects I got, no one would show up.

            But I realized then that I really should not have worried at all. I should have expected Carolina students to show such enthusiasm and excitement for Pro Bono and serving the community. That is truly a key part of what makes our community unique and Carolina great. From then on, I wasn’t nervous at all. The next morning at 7am, the rest of the amazing Pro Bono Board and I started signing students up for all sorts of projects – ranging in type from corporate to public interest, from environmental law to criminal law. We filled all the spots in no time!

            The Winter Break Projects experience for me was an affirming and inspiring one. It affirmed the fact that Carolina Law believes in and supports Pro Bono work. It affirmed the fact that Carolina students are truly excited about giving back to the community and helping meet unmet legal needs. It inspired a hope that when we become lawyers, a lot of us will continue to be committed to Pro Bono. It can be hard to decide to give up some of your winter vacation to do legal work, especially after a hard semester of school. But winter break sign-ups showed me that our students are really happy to do just that.

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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Sun. February 14, 2016 5:40 PM
Categories: General

Orientation Kickoff and Video Introduction

Every summer, the UNC Law Pro Bono Program gears up for 1L Orientation by preparing a video to introduce the incoming students to the Pro Bono Program.

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Posted by Laura L. Kessler on Wed. November 11, 2015 5:24 PM
Categories: General

The Pro Bono Bucket List

The Pro Bono Program at the University of North Carolina School of Law is one of a kind. Since the Pro Bono Program's inception in 1997, students have been connected with hundreds of projects. Last year, Carolina law students completed over 35,954 hours of Pro Bono work, worth $771,932.

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Posted by Olivia E. Taylor on Wed. October 28, 2015 1:40 PM
Categories: General

Making Time for Pro Bono as a New Attorney

Service has long been a part of my life. From a young age, family, friends and teachers stressed the importance of serving others and the community. And for the most part, I took their advice. Because it gave me a sense of purpose. Because it was the right thing to do. Because I enjoyed making connections with people. And, in small part, because it was easy. Going to volunteer at a soup kitchen could be accommodated in my then very busy middle school schedule. . .

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Posted by Munashe Magarira on Tue. December 9, 2014 8:06 AM
Categories: General
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