We are pleased to share our latest newsletter.
If you have questions, please feel free to email me.
Bright and early Saturday morning, 77 people were driving into downtown Columbia to attend the SC Access to Justice Commission’s LEP Work Group “Law School for Interpreters.”
Meanwhile, the sponsors were all busy opening the facility and readying the room and registration tables for each of these interpreters.
At 8:45 a.m., seats filled and the LEP Work Group provided an overview of the day and the program began.
The excitement in the room was palpable. Interpreters greeted one another with hugs, and sometimes questions of “which language do you speak?” And the excitement was not limited to interpreters and translators. Many of the event sponsors were thrilled with the turn-out, especially on a Saturday. Languages represented included Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, French, and Urdu as well as a few others.
And we’re all excited about the prospect of an additional pool of qualified and certified interpreters and translators in the South Carolina Court System.
Thanks again to our sponsors, speakers, and participants!
Cost: $35 – includes breakfast, lunch, snacks and materials! Pay by check or Discover, Visa or MasterCard.
Program begins promptly at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m.
Space is limited and preference is given to South Carolina residents.
Registration MUST be post-marked no later than Friday, February 3, 2012. No refunds for cancellations received after Friday, January 27, 2012.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Robin Wheeler at (803) 576-3808.
At our recent SC Access to Justice Commission meeting, we had a guest speaker who presented on Language Access and the growing need for language access in the civil court system.
And, while many of us understand the laws that govern language access, especially in the legal system, the fact still remains that in order to provide qualified interpreters, these qualified interpreters must be available and accessible.
Most everyone I’ve spoken with has noted that we need more qualified interpreters. We simply do not have the numbers of qualified interpreters.
During our preliminary conversations, we learned that while there is a general interest to interpret, many in the interpretation community were unfamiliar with legal terminology and courtroom decorum. And, interpreters were hesitant to pay to take the South Carolina Court Interpreter exam without at least an introduction to the legal system in South Carolina.
As a result, Law School for Interpreters was created.
I’m pleased to introduce the Law School for Interpreters which will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012. We have a great line-up of speakers including attorneys and at least one judge. The sponsors for the event have all been working together with the Commission as we try to increase the number of qualified courtroom and legal interpreters.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in this course, please complete and return the registration form – Registration for Law School for Interpreters Feb 11 2012.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Earlier today, Shannon Willis Scruggs, the Executive Director of the South Carolina Bar Foundation, and I made our annual surprise site visit to the South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) office where the Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year receives their surprise notice of the honor.
The 2011 recipient is Jack E. Cohoon, from the Columbia office.
Who is Jack E. Cohoon?
He has been employed in the Columbia SCLS office for more than 5 years. Jack serves as the lead employment attorney and provides guidance and case reviews of employment cases throughout the organization. But Jack’s caseload is not limited to employment; Jack also helps with evictions, housing, domestic violence, consumer protection, public benefits, education, and elder law.
Jack developed an expungement clinic protocol that includes a PowerPoint presentation, a brochure, and assistance with the SC Access to Justice Commission’s Expungement and Pardons FAQs.
What do co-workers say about Jack E. Cohoon?
“His polite demeanor and droll wit create a wonderful rapport between him and his clients.”
“Jack is a truly exceptional young attorney who has made a substantial statewide impact on the scope and effectiveness of SCLS’s representation to the benefit of all low income South Carolinians.”
“Jack’s work ethic is one of the best at SCLS. He is on the job and eager for work every day.”
“His calm, even demeanor has made him a favorite with attorneys within and outside of SCLS. Indeed, his glowing reputation extends to opposing counsel as well.”
“He is never temperamental and willingly accepts supervision, suggestions and criticism.”
From a client:
“. . . Jack Cohoon did me a great service with the case that I brought to him. I don’t know that if I had had the money to pay a lawyer they could have done a better service for me.”
From the Workforce Investment Area re: expungement clinics:
“Jack was the perfect partner to work with. He exhibited compassion and patience that was very evident and sincere to the workshop attendees. Many stayed after the sessions to speak with him personally . . . He provided hope for some who felt they had exhausted every avenue. . . . Jack is a true treasure as he will always avail himself to help get information and services to the community. . . . I appreciate the professionalism which Jack presents to a hurting and sometimes angry audience and look forward to the opportunity to work with him again.”
It’s easy to see why Jack is the recipient of this year’s Ellen Hines Smith Attorney of the Year award.
If you would like to see Jack receive the award, please join us at the South Carolina Bar Foundation Gala on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. The reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $100 and table sponsorships start at $1,200. Please contact Shannon Scruggs at email@example.com or (803) 765-0517 for more information.
Patti is currently serving as co-President of the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Board, but her interest in pro bono began even before law school.
I’ve always had a strong desire to help others, and getting involved with Pro Bono was the most direct way I felt I could do that while in law school. Other students spoke highly of the program, so I was excited to be a part of it!
She has been a member of the Pro Bono Board since her 2nd year of law school, but participated in various events as a 1L.
Her latest project through Pro Bono was helping the South Carolina Journal of International Law & Business participate in a service day at Habitat ReStore. She is very active in helping to organize the Best Class Food Drive held each semester and have taught CHOICES classes at the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice.
What pro bono experience brings her the most joy?
The incoming students service day. It’s great to see new students helping out in the community, and I love being a part of their experience!
Being involved in the program has allowed me to be active in the community and continue helping others. There is so much need in the world, and locally, that I believe everyone has a duty to help. Everyone has a skill that is beneficial to others!
Plus I didn’t realize that so many attorneys are willing to “donate” their time for various causes. It’s encouraging to know that!
And she has a great message for law students:
Get involved!! There is something for everyone, and everyone benefits.
Patti’s enthusiasm for pro bono is immediately evident and she emphatically notes that she will continue to participate in pro bono projects once she becomes licensed. And I don’t doubt her for one minute!
Bryan Lysell has been involved in the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program since his first semester in law school. He currently serves as co-Presidents of the Pro Bono Board and participates in the Carolina Clerks project with the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center and he volunteers at the Homeless Law Clinic (HELP) in St. Peter’s Church.
I asked Bryan a few questions about pro bono, including what first drew him to the program. Here’s what he said:
That is hard to say. I guess what first drew me to the Pro Bono Program was public radio. I like NPR and the pro bono program volunteers each year to man the telephones at ETV’s fall fundraiser. I volunteered for that and sat next to Pam Robinson. Pam asked me what I did before I came to law school and when I told her that I used to work for a labor union, she was one of the first people I met in South Carolina who had a positive reaction. I think I thought to myself then that a program that that lady runs must be a good program. That impression has been borne out time and again over the last three years.
When asked about he became involved with the various projects, he noted:
I learned about all of these programs through Pam Robinson. With regard to the Carolina Clerks position, I responded to a general request that Pam had sent out via email.
In September, Pam needed someone to fill an open spot at HELP one morning and she asked me if I could stop by. I think Pam asked me because HELP is a morning gig and she knew that I am generally an early riser.
He also participates with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA),
VITA was one of the first things that I got involved in at law school and I feel like it really set the tone for my continued participation in the pro bono program. I used to be a labor union representative and I enjoy talking to people. VITA gave me an opportunity to interact with folks who have problems and who are trying to get help with them. It had a lot of the characteristics of my former employment and it was comforting to me to be able to do something that felt familiar and that I thought I was good at (particularly in my 1L year when that feeling is an otherwise rare commodity.
One of his favorite pro bono memories is participating in VITA:
I had a nice surprise while doing taxes. An elderly man came in needing to have his taxes prepared.
Usually I like to chat with folks while I do their taxes. I find it entertaining and having a conversation with the person to whom you’ve entrusted an important task usually makes people feel more comfortable in that entrustment.
This guy just would not bite, though; he responded monosyllabically, if at all to any questions I would ask, even those related to taxes.
As I went through his documents, I found a 1099 for a pension that he received from LTV. LTV is a steel company that specializes in producing steel pipe. I asked him whether he worked in a mill and he told me that he worked at a mill in Cleveland.
Well, I’m from Pittsburgh, and my father, my uncle, and my grandfather all worked in the mills, and in particular my grandfather worked in the McKeesportworks, which specialized in continuous cast steel pipe. When I told him all of that, his demeanor turned 180 degrees and he was as affable as anyone I had ever met. We talked about the Steelers and the Browns, about steel mills, about South Carolina summers and how unbearably long and hot they are, and about Midwest winters and how unbearably long and cold they are.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that guy. I hope he comes around again this year.
As he related what he’s learned from doing pro bono work, it was evident that he will make a fine attorney:
I have relearned that you need to listen to people when they are talking to you about their concerns, that sometimes they’re saying more than what they’re actually saying. I think that has particularly been the case at the homeless legal clinic. Sometimes you are talking to people who have been involved in significant domestic violence issues and while some people can talk openly about it, others cannot.
When asked about whether participating in pro bono changed his view of law, he noted:
What changed my view of the law was learning that lawyers have an ethical obligation to helping people in need gain access to the justice system. I feel like that ethical obligation corresponds with my own notions of what a personally productive career would be and what is an appropriately civic minded individual.
In his co-President role, he actively speaks about pro bono and encourages other students to participate. Specifically:
When I talk to other law students about the Pro Bono Program I usually like to stress to them that this is an opportunity to interact with actual people, the kind that you are going to interact with as a real attorney, and that law students should take those opportunities whenever they can get them.
This kind of interaction is an education in its own right, and the ability to communicate complicated ideas to people in a manner that is easily understandable is an essential component to being a good advisor, which itself is essential to being a good lawyer.
I usually conclude by saying that, if nothing else, it feels good to be able to help people that need it and that as lawyers we have an ethical obligation to do exactly this kind of work.
I’m looking forward to hearing more from this valuable pro bono leader!
Ashley became involved in pro bono when she saw flyers posted during her first semester of law school about the Guardian ad Litem program. Instead of signing up immediately she waited until her second semester and began talking with Pam Robinson (USC School of Law Pro Bono Director) about that particular program. Ashley recalls “I was so excited because she remembered me even after the first time I spoke with her. She signed me up for Pro Bono announcements. I participated in the Guardian ad Litem training course, and it was “all she wrote” after that.”
She’s been participating in the law school’s pro bono program for 2 years now; serving on the board since her 2nd year of law school.
While Ashley continues to serve as GAL, she also stays involved in a lot of projects.
Right now, we’re gearing up for our semester food drive for Harvest Hope. It’s my job to get my classmates involved because we have a competition between the three law classes. I want the 3Ls to win this year! We’re kicking-off the food drive with a “It’s Not a Crock Pot” soup lunch to raise awareness for hunger. I’ll be entering a soup in the contest on behalf of an organization I’m involved with.
Also, we’ve been hosting a “Good Deed Friday” project about once a month where students who are involved in Pro Bono get together with students from other law organizations to perform community service in and around Columbia.
This semester, we kicked-off a new program called “Carolina Clerks” that allows attorneys with a pro bono case to obtain assistance from a USC Law student. That program is wonderful because it provides help to the attorney while simultaneously providing experience to a law student who is eager to learn.
When asked about how she first became involved in these multiples projects, she noted “We host the food drive every semester, so that’s an easy Pro Bono opportunity for everyone. Mostly, I learn about projects through my activities with the Board Members and Pam. In fact, every time I walk into Pam’s office, she’s always telling me about the new ideas she has, and it’s wonderful that she’s so creative.”
Ashley’s passion for pro bono doesn’t stop there.
One semester, I participated in a “Pro Bono and Jelly” hunger awareness bake sale during the food drive. We encouraged students and faculty to bring their lunches and donate the money they would normally spend eating out to Harvest Hope. I have also visited retirement centers with other volunteers to sit down and talk with senior citizens about their legal needs. We fill out surveys to identify how the legal community can best serve this group of people. Additionally, this summer I worked with South Carolina Legal Aid as a public interest law clerk, so I stayed on this semester as a volunteer. Our Pro Bono program has close ties with that office because they serve the public.
I performed a lot of community service in high school and during my undergraduate career, so it seemed silly not to continue doing good things for others when I started law school. Admittedly, it’s a lot more difficult during your first semester to get involved, but once I settled in I wanted to find out what I could do. Pro Bono opportunities have provided me with a lot of hands-on legal experience. I’m so thankful for the program, and I really enjoy working with students and people in our community. I really believe that one of my responsibilities in this profession requires me to give back some of my time to people who really need it. A lot of people don’t understand our judicial system, so law students and practicing attorneys should aspire to reach out to them and make the experience as helpful as possible.
When asked about whether she experienced any surprises with her pro bono work, Ashley reflects “I wouldn’t say I have had too many surprises. I think becoming a GAL was a little overwhelming at first, though. My first case was difficult for me because it was hard to believe that children, right here in Columbia, are abused and neglected every day. We see these things on TV, so it was almost surreal to experience it first hand. However, it was rewarding to stand in front of a judge in Family Court and have my final opinion heard and implemented.”
I asked Ashley about what she had learned from her pro bono service:
From my pro bono experiences, I have learned quite a lot about who I am, who I want to be, and what kind of law I think I might pursue. For example, I learned that family law is more difficult because of the emotional element that’s always present when you speak to a client or work with family members. Pro bono work has taught me patience and understanding. When you realize that you have to explain legalese to someone who may or may not have graduated from high school, your perspective changes and you realize how valuable your services are to the clients you serve. I have also learned how fortunate I am, and I’m thankful for the experiences I have had.
And pro bono service is not a new concept for Ashley. She recalls that “I have always believed that it is important for each person to serve the communities in which we live. It’s so valuable to give back what we take. Pro bono service really changed my view of the law because now I understand what it is like to see it from a regular person’s perspective. By “regular person,” I mean someone who has not studied the law, someone who may not be aware of what his or her rights are in our country, and someone who can only tell me a story, not a particular legal issue. That’s why I think pro bono service is so important because it’s one of a lawyer’s professional duties to give back to society.”
I asked Ashley if she had any thoughts about pro bono service that she wanted to share with her fellow law students. Her response was thoughtful and frank:
I think that pro bono speaks for itself. Truly, a person only needs to get involved in one pro bono program to experience the joy and pleasure of doing good things for other people. Everyone has a little time to sacrifice, and it only takes one project or one client to keep a law student engaged and active in pro bono work for life.
She remains an active pro bono volunteer at SC Legal Services volunteering three hours a week as a law clerk. She has high esteem for the SC Legal Services attorneys noting that they are “fabulous, and they work hard for their clients. I have learned a great deal from them and could not be more thankful for the experience I have had there. They have taught me so many things that classroom lectures don’t quite touch on in law school.”
Is Ashley’s pro bono going to continue into her law practice?
Most definitely. I think I would be doing a disservice to myself and my community by not engaging in pro bono work.
That is music to my ears. We are lucky to have have such dedicated young attorneys and law students who cannot imagine their profession without giving back.
Stay tuned as we highlight them throughout this week!
I’m very proud to don this logo on the SC Access to Justice blog. For the past three years, the American Bar Association has hosted this powerful, national event highlighting the importance of pro bono legal services around the United States.
In South Carolina, we’re proud to highlight some of the work in our own backyard. Throughout the remainder of Celebrate Pro Bono 2011, you’ll be able to learn how South Carolina law students and practicing attorneys interpret pro bono legal services and put it into action.
Many thanks to the American Bar, probono.net and the thousands of attorneys and law students who are celebrating pro bono this week!
We are pleased to announce that nominations for the 2011 Ellen Hines Smith Legal Services Attorney of the Year are open!
The Ellen Hines Smith Award was established in 1989. It is given to a South Carolina Bar member who is employed as an LSC grantee program lawyer who has demonstrated long-term commitment to legal services and who has personally done significant work in extending legal services to the poor.
Who is eligible?
Who is not eligible?
Previous award winners are not eligible:
1989 – Martha B. Dicus
1990 –Thomas L. Bruce
1991 – Johnny Simpson
1992 – Harold F. Daniels
1993 – Andrea E. Loney
1994 – Mozella Nicholson
1995 – Thomas A.Trent
1996 – Susan A. Cross
1997 – Angela M. Myers
1998 – Ethel E. Weinberg
1999 – Nancy M. Butler
2000 – Byron A. Reid
2001 – Lynn P. Wagner
2002 – Eddie McConnell
2003 – Frank Cannon
2004 – Willie B. Heyward
2005 – Lynn Snowber-Marini
2006 – Eddie McConnell
2007 – Marcia Powell-Shew
2009 – Maureen White
2010 – Susan J. Firimonte
When is the application due?
How do I find out who received the award?
For more information about Ms. Ellen Hines Smith, visit the USC School of Law Memory Hold the Door page dedicated to her. ~ RFW
In case you missed it elsewhere, LSC President Sandman discusses pro bono and its importance to legal services programs.
He also discusses the limitations of legal services organizations and the great value of law firm and corporate pro bono participation. Well worth watching!
Tip of the hat to Cheryl Zalenski at the ABA Center for Pro Bono who tweeted this. Thanks for the heads-up.