Blog Posts: Spring Break Trip 2016

Spring Break Trip 2016

2016 Wills Trip

Boone, NC


Reflecting on your overall trip experience, what was the most meaningful aspect for you? 

  • I think the most meaningful part of my trip experience was getting the chance to provide access to a legal service that would otherwise go unprovided. So many of our clients spoke of how relatives having advance directives in place made it easier on the family during a difficult time, or how not having advance directives made the end-of-life process more emotionally and legally difficult for the family -- helping our clients make their wishes known while still able lets us provide our clients with peace of mind about the future.
  • One of the most meaningful parts of the trip was bonding with my fellow law students. The size of the group and the personalities of the people on the trip made it really easy to really get to know almost everyone on the trip, and create meaningful bonds that will last for years.
  • The most meaningful aspect was being able to interact with clients.  One of the common statements over the course of the trip that many of the people in the western part of the state feel forgotten.  Both of my parents come from rural and/or low-income communities where there was also a lack of access to resources.  Thus, I found myself taking more time to get to know the clients and hear about their experiences.  My conversations with them were the most meaningful.

Was there a part of the trip that particularly moved you in some way? If so, how did that make you feel and how did it improve your  overall legal education? 

  • For me, it was moving to realize that even though we are not lawyers yet, as law students we are still able to make a difference for our clients. This trip reinforced the notion that we are knowledgeable and understand the law so that we are able to assist people with legal matters who may not be able to afford it otherwise.
  • One of the most moving parts of the trip was when one of my clients talked to me about his mother’s passing. He talked about how his mother executed a living will before she passed away and how he was so glad she did that because he didn’t want to have to make that decision when the time came. Hearing how much of a relief it was for him and his siblings and how he didn’t want to put that burden on his children was incredibly moving. I was so happy to be a part of his effort to comfort his family in a moment he knew would be very difficult for them.
  • I was particularly moved by the genuine feelings of thankfulness that each and every client had for the work we did. It reminded me that the work we do, even as law students, makes a real difference in people's’ lives, many of whom would not be able to have this work done if it weren’t for us. One of our clients asked if we were required to come do this work as part of our education, and was stunned to find out that we were volunteers that had given up part of our spring break to come and help out. It made the experience even more rewarding.
  • We had clients ask “what should I do?” This question makes you wonder whether you are qualified to give advice or what would happen if you gave the wrong advice. But in the end, you realize how much you actually know, and that you can make a difference in these people’s lives. You realize how much these individuals rely on you and trust you, even though they just met you. In law school we often miss the big picture, as we are at the mercy of the cold-calling professor in the next class. However, with great power, comes great responsibility, and as law students and new lawyers, we have to recognize the power we have.

What surprised you most about the trip and why?

  • Seemingly small acts, like giving up a few hours of your spring break, can have a significant impact beyond what most would expect. For students, we worry about ensuring that every box is properly checked, but our impact during Pro Bono work goes further than correctly filled out forms. Clients are looking for genuine conversations, someone who will listen to their concerns, and a kind person who will try to help them with their problems. I’m glad we could provide that service.
  • What surprised me the most about the trip was how appreciative our clients were, both to have someone fill out these important forms and to just be an ear for them to talk to. Some of the most interesting conversations I had were during the time my partner was drafting the will in the other room, and my client would tell me  about their lives and important lessons they learned along the way.

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No Comments | Posted by William P. Norrell on Mon. March 21, 2016 6:59 PM
Categories: Spring Break Trip 2016

Spring Break Trip 2016

2016 Wills Trip

Boone, NC


Was the clinic what you were expecting/anticipating from this trip? If not, how was this experience different?

  • I came into this expecting to experience the highest quality Pro Bono Program in the state, and I am leaving this experience with an incredible sense of affirmation.
  • Before the trip I was a little nervous to meet with clients and have that responsibility, but all of the people I met with were so nice and the supervising attorneys were really helpful. By the end of day two, I had become so much more confident and it turned out to be even more rewarding of an experience than I had expected.
  • The clinic did turn out to be what I expected from the trip. I worked at Legal Aid this past summer and am familiar with the types of people that come into Legal Aid and what the process is like. During my work experience and through this clinic, I have continually seen very nice, appreciative, and all around good people come to Legal Aid for help. I’ve ran into difficult clients before but the good clients outweigh the bad clients by far. It was great to carry on the work I’ve already done servicing an area of North Carolina that does not have access to adequate legal services.
  • Prior to going on the trip, I expected the trip to be very similar to the wills portion of the Cherokee trip.  However, I found myself reflecting more on my own personal experiences while on this trip.  Many of the issues raised in my interactions with clients were similar to those that arose in my own family.

How has your interaction with trip participants/attorneys affected you?

  • Our supervising attorneys from Legal Aid of North Carolina discussed with us at length their limited resources and capacity in serving clients in need. Despite being responsible for North Carolinians spread out across nine counties, the Morganton office only has six total attorneys on staff. Under these constraints, it’s impossible for them to reach everyone who needs their support; that’s why it is so vitally important that students like us step up to fill the gap whenever possible.
  • Interacting with clients gave me a snapshot of the true importance of the work that we are doing. Every client expresses a large amount of gratitude and shares with us how much peace of mind this will give them.
  • It was really rewarding to see the impact that our work has on clients as we were working with them. Often with pro bono, it can feel as though you are just completing a task for your supervising attorney without seeing how your work contributes to the big picture.
  • Interacting with clients always reminds me of why I came to law school in the first place, to help people. When I get to see my legal skills in action, I am reminded just how much impact I can have on someone’s life.
  • Seeing first year, second year and third year students interact with and learn from each other is another reason as to why these trips are so great!  
  • As an administrator, I love getting to know our students in this more personal way--I know our students are great but really getting to know them is a true gift.  
  • As a third year, it was great seeing underclassmen become more confident in their abilities and also see them find a passion for helping others. In working with the attorneys, I was able to see this passion that was nurtured in the students on the trip, still thriving in the legal community.

Are there any  interesting stories that you would like to share about the trip?

  • When we think of short-term clinics like these, we often think of ourselves as educating a client on the law and on her options under the law. However, sometimes giving a client more information is not the most helpful role we can play. I think the most powerful learning experience a trip like this can provide to a law student comes through helping a client navigate how he feels about the information he has and how those feelings impact his decision-making process -- it’s in this process that we learn how to “counsel.”
  • The most interesting conversation I had with a client was about how helpful the end-of-life documents were when one of his loved ones died in the past. His brother had recently passed and he was extremely grateful to not have to deal with any of his medical decisions because of his living will. He told me that it made everything so much easier and he wanted the same for his family when he passed.

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No Comments | Posted by William P. Norrell on Mon. March 21, 2016 6:48 PM
Categories: Spring Break Trip 2016

Spring Break Trip 2016

2016 Wills Trip

Boone, NC


How has meeting with clients enhanced your legal skills and experiences?

  • Meeting with clients has allowed me to face real-world legal problems head on. Each client has different needs, wants, and circumstances, so it presents an opportunity to learn how to handle the different needs of clients.
  • Meeting with clients gave me the opportunity to practice thinking on my feet because you never really know what a client will share with you. As an attorney, you also have to act as an advocate for your clients, assisting them with their legal needs while keeping in mind their best interests and this experience enabled me to practice this skill.
  • Having the opportunity to engage with clients during this trip has given me the chance to take the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and apply them in ways that matter to people around our state. Moving from the theoretical to the tangible is a meaningful and fulfilling experience that reaffirms why I’m excited to start my career as an attorney.  
  • Meeting with clients enhanced my legal skills because I was given the opportunity to really assess my understanding of the law.  As an attorney, I will not only need to understand the law for myself, but also be able to explain the law in a way that my clients understand.
  • More than anything I think my legal skills were enhanced by the confidence that I gained by realizing that I can do this! I can meet with clients, discuss difficult topics,  problem solve, and learn as I go. I think that will be invaluable for future jobs and experiences.
  • Meeting with clients from different cultures, and beliefs that me helped me learn to think on my feet, and relate to people from different backgrounds.

What was the most challenging part of meeting with clients? Was there something that surprised you?

  • One of the major difficulties is balancing talking with the clients and allowing there to be natural lulls in the conversation, when you have long client interactions. When you have been talking to the same person for a long time, you often run out of surface level things to discuss. Especially if the client only wanted one document.
  • The most challenging part of meeting with clients was ensuring I explained all of the documents correctly. I took a lot of time making sure that my clients understood each document thoroughly and that they understood they didn’t have to get a certain document if they didn’t want it. Some documents made clients uncomfortable and I could see they weren’t ready to make the decisions that the document called for. This was the most challenging part but also turned out to be the most rewarding part when I could see they clearly understood each document and they felt comfortable telling me they didn’t want it or just didn’t want to make those decisions right now.
  • To me, the most challenging part was making sure that the clients felt supported and comfortable discussing the difficult topics that come up when preparing wills and powers of attorney, while also making sure that they understood that while we are able to explain the significance of certain choices available to them, we were not able to direct them on which choices they should ultimately make. I had a client who repeatedly asked me to place myself in his shoes and tell him what I would do in his situation. While it was challenging to talk him through the documents, it did help me recognize that he did come in with an idea of what he wanted, and with some probing, we were able to successfully work our way through each document. This experience gave me a true glimpse of what it really means to counsel a client.
  • The most challenging part of meeting with clients was explaining the other advanced directives to them. Some of my clients were easy because they were very at peace with thinking about the end of their lives. Others, however, had not really thought about their last moments and whether they wanted things such as artificial nutrition or hydration for the end of their days. You could tell it really caught them off-guard, and it made me sad to see them come to the realization that they eventually were going to die and they were speaking to me to plan their death.
  • I found out how important it was to make sure that the client was completely understanding these very complex documents every step of the way. These documents are making very important decisions, and it’s imperative that the client fully appreciate the scope of their decision. That means that if they’re unable to comprehend these documents, we can’t complete that document, even though it might help them out later. So, it was challenging to actually, in practice, put ethical considerations of what the client can understand and actually wants above my interpretation of what I thought might help them the most.
  • I found the most challenging part of meeting with clients to be the emotional conversations we had about end of life planning. It was emotional not only for the client, but for my client counseling partner and I, to speak with clients about emotional topics. These challenging emotional conversations helped me grow in my counseling role as a future lawyer, and emphasized the importance of this work for the clients we serve.

What was the most rewarding part of Day One of the trip to Boone, NC?

  • As a trip returner, I think it is fun to see students doing work for the first time realize that, as a result of training and preparation, they really do have the skills needed to serve vulnerable clients in a meaningful way.  
  • It was really great to see the community come out and support our students who were supporting them.
  • It is meaningful to know that Legal Aid’s Morganton office and the senior centers looks forward to our our trip as well.  Our presence truly helps meet unmet legal needs.
  • One of the interesting parts is seeing how people all have similar fears when interacting with clients and that when removed from their normal law school friends, people can break out of their usual cliques and actually be comfortable with meeting new people.  
  • I have been on the Wills Trip all three years of law school, and as a 3L it was exciting to watch the 1L students interact with their first clients, and learn how impactful their legal skills can be.

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No Comments | Posted by William P. Norrell on Mon. March 21, 2016 6:34 PM
Categories: Spring Break Trip 2016

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