Celebrate Pro Bono: Allison Humen

As part of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, we are highlighting pro bono legal service in South Carolina.

Meet ALLISON HUMEN, 3L at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Allison Humen

Allison Humen currently serves as the SBA Liaison to the USC School of Law Pro Bono Board. When asked what drew her to pro bono service, she recalled:

Since I was younger, I have participated in various service projects and organizations.  The Pro Bono program offered the opportunity to continue serving not only the community at-large, but also the legal field which we are all now a part of.  Not only do you get to serve, but you are able to do this alongside your classmates. 

She describes her first major experience with the Pro Bono Program, the Harvest Hope Food Drive in the fall of of 1st year:  

All of the students and professors do a wonderful job of encouraging students to work together to make such a large donation to Harvest Hope each year.  Being a part of this unified effort in giving back to the community proved how much good the school can do.  Since then, I was invited to join the Pro Bono Board, from which I have not only been able to participate in various projects, but also help organize these projects for the student body.

She’s been involved in several pro bono projects over the past few years:

I completed the Guardian ad Litem training in my first year, and since then having been serving as an advocate for the best interests of the children in my cases.  From speaking to older classmates and hearing about their experience with this program, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to help families and children, while being able to participate in the legal process.  Although it is difficult at times by playing an important role in these children’s’ lives and their future, it has been an invaluable experience.  I would recommend this program to every law student.  Not only does this experience remind you of the personal aspect of the law which we are studying, it also gives you practical experience.

 I am currently a Carolina Clerk.  This is a program created by Pam Robinson and Dean Wilcox, which matches volunteer law students with lawyers who have agreed to pro bono client representation.  The Pro Bono Program has widely publicized this new program throughout the school as well as on the school’s website, so I was eager to help kick-off the program and volunteered early.  The current case I am working on is a DSS case, so it has been interesting to work on family law issues from the standpoint of the parent, rather than the children which are the sole focus of the Guardian ad Litem role. 

As a member of a few student organizations I wanted to create a way for different organizations to team up and serve together.  With the help of Pam, the Student Bar Association and the Pro Bono Board initiated Good Deed Friday.  This program gives all of the student organizations, journals, Moot Court Bar, and Mock Trial Bar the opportunity to join together and volunteer a (Fri)day of service at a local charitable organization.  Our first Friday was September 30th, which members of the Student Bar Association, Pro Bono Board, and the Real Property Trust and Estate Law Journal volunteered a few hours at the Harvest Hope Food Bank.  Not only are we helping the community, but we are also strengthening the law school community by enabling student leaders to bond over these “good deeds.”

Any lessons learned from pro bono?

Pro bono work has expanded my view of how many people are in need and are in need in so many different ways.  When you are surrounded by so many fortunate members of the law school community for the vast majority of your time, it is easy to forget how many people go without.  Participating in pro bono has heightened my gratitude for all that I have been blessed with, as well as my compassion for those who have less and my responsibility to help any small way I can.  

What’s your advice to other law students?

Get involved early!  Even if you are afraid you won’t have the time. Everyone in law school is busy, but Pam does a wonderful job of providing a wide-range of opportunities within the Pro Bono Program.  So if you only have one afternoon a month to offer, we will find a place for you to volunteer then!  If you aren’t able to complete the two-week Guardian ad Litem training, there are many ways to volunteer that do not require any additional training! 

Will you continue pro bono service after law school?

My passion for service did not begin in law school, and I am certain that it will not end after graduation.  It is important for every one of us to do pro bono work, and I believe this need is only strengthened once you become a licensed attorney.  At that point, you will have more tools in your belt and therefore be able to serve the community in ways that the majority of the population cannot. 

Thanks for your service Allison! I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!

~RFW

Pro Bono: USC School of Law

If you attended USC School of Law anytime after 1989, chances are you met Pamela D.  Robinson, the director of the Pro Bono program there. And it’s more likely than not that you participated in one of  the programs she coordinates.

Think not? Think again! How about the Harvest Hope food drives?

Take a look to see how far they’ve come (just last spring).

And I received information today that:

Over the last 15 years the USC School of Law “Best Class Food Drives” have resulted in the donation of 243,600 pounds of food to help Harvest Hope Food Bank meet the needs of their clients.

With the Fall Food Drive we expect to go over the 1/4 pound mark.  In addition hundreds of law students have learned about hunger in SC and how everyone can be a part of the solution.
-RFW

Guess

What do Harvest Hope and SC foreclosures have in common?

If you guessed that South Carolina has seen a marked increase in foreclosures and requests for food have markedly increased, you win!

According to the Columbia Regional Business Report (CRBR):

South Carolina’s foreclosure rate from July to August 2009 was up 1.94%, reported national real estate tracking company RealtyTrac.com. That number is more than 78% higher than it was one year ago.

According to Harvest Hope:

In the first quarter of 2009, Harvest Hope experienced a 142%  increase in the number of families needing assistance.

Earlier today I attended a fundraiser luncheon for Harvest Hope. It made me focus on how the problems faced by so many living in poverty are faces of our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones.

The “featured” speaker at the luncheon was someone who had been working – two jobs. Two good, solid jobs. Then she got ill. Which started the medical bills and absence from work. Which caused her to lose her jobs. Both jobs. The bills kept coming. When it came to paying bills, she used her money for medical bills and medication. Then she lost her home. She stopped eating so much. That made her sicker. Then she found Harvest Hope.

She was able to eat.

The doctors are still trying to figure out what is “wrong” with her. In the meantime, she can eat. Without Harvest Hope and the necessary nutrition it provides, she would be even more sick.

While these societal problems may not be legal, I guarantee that the Legal Aid Telephone Intake Service (LATIS) has been referring people to Harvest Hope.

And once people have nutrition and can think about something other than an empty belly, then they may call LATIS for assistance with a problem with their Landlord. Or maybe for help with their Medicaid benefits. Or help with a way to escape their abusive spouse.

-RFW

South Carolina, Subject of Washington Post Article

Columbia, South Carolina (my hometown) is featured today in More Need, Less Help by Amy Goldstein at the Washington Post.

The subject is that as South Carolina’s ranking rises in unemployment and the financial crisis spirals out of control, the need for assistance rises.

  • South Carolinians are out-of-work.

  • South Carolinians are hungry. 

  • South Carolinians cannot pay rent or mortgages. 

  • South Carolinians are going without medication.

  • South Carolinians are worried about their children and their futures.

Food pantries like Harvest Hope are working as hard as they can to fill orders. But their supplies are running short.

Other charities, like the United Way of South Carolina, United Way of the Midlands, the Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Family Service Center, and the Salvation Army, are working round the clock to assist, but their donations are dwindling as well.

Excerpts:

Timothy Ervolina, president of the United Way Association of South Carolina, worries that the web of philanthropic and nonprofit groups may not be able to fulfill the governor’s [Sanford] expectations. Ervolina has watched fundraising fade at United Ways across the state, even as calls pour in to their crisis hotlines.

. . .

South Carolina Legal Services, a statewide network that gives free legal help, in July received the biggest grant handed out by the South Carolina Bar Foundation but in January was asked to return 15 percent of it.

The time to act is now. If you can afford to make a donation, please do so.

Your donation may offer someone else hope. Hope to carry on. Hope for their children. Hope to live.

Thanks Washington Post for sharing the story of Columbia, SC!

-RFW