GUEST POST by Tiffany D. Gibson
I was raised in a low socioeconomic background. Both of my parents are on Social Security Disability. My mother has been on SSD since I was in the 5th grade. My father has been on SSD since I was in the 12th grade. Our family has struggled even more since both of my parents are on disability. Getting through paying bills from month to month is a blessing for the household. Moreover, my parents have only a high school education, and the rural Pee Dee region of South Carolina is what they know. I have seen my parents and members of the family have legal issues but not have access or the financial means to afford an attorney. One of my uncles has had a long battle with trying to acquire Social Security Disability, but he has had to fight the system on his own and with no outside legal help. I have seen my father in an extended involvement with probate issues of his deceased father’s estate, but he has not had an consistent legal help or someone to just guide him on the ins and outs of probate law with regards to his inheritance. From a few of my family experiences, I realize firsthand how crucial pro bono is to providing access to justice for those who are unable to or who just do not know how to go about exercising their rights to justice.
As a law student, it is so easy to get caught up in the chaos of assignments, papers, job searches, jobs, organizations, and social life. Involvement in pro bono is the priceless opportunity that gives you that necessary outlet. It opens your eyes and helps you to realize that it is not about you and your personal goals. It is about my community and what I can do to service my community as a present law student and in future practice of law. Involvement with Pro Bono helps you to become more well-rounded and improves your ability to work with and interact with all degrees of life from different socioeconomic, race, and ethnic backgrounds.
A good percentage of the population of my law school comes from privileged or comfortable middle-class backgrounds. A lot of these students come to law school very much oblivious to the extent of the critical need for pro bono service within our community. Involvement in Pro Bono is needed to make them understand just how much the community needs their service.
I have talked to a few friends at Charleston Law, and they informed me that a certain amount of pro bono hours are required for every law student. At University of South Carolina, we do not require pro bono hours. I believe that a pro bono requirement would be a great investment for the law school and the community that we service. This will get the students out into the community who would not get involved on their own otherwise. The requirement would also plant seeds into the law students –seeds that would hopefully grow and continued to be nourished when they are out in practice.