Focus on Pro Bono: Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards is currently a 2L at the Charleston School of Law.  He is taking Evidence, Criminal Law, Constitutional “Con” Law, Professional Responsibility, and Equity. He is currently serving as the secretary of the Criminal Law Society and is a member of the ABA committee.

His Favorite Class?

Con Law is my favorite.

His current pro bono work?

Right now I am working with Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services on heirs’ property, wills, and mortgage foreclosures.  I am also helping a public defender, Marybeth Mullaney, do research in preparation for an armed robbery reform bill being introduced to the state legislature in January.

What first drew him to pro bono work?

I’ve always enjoyed helping people.  That’s the main reason I came to law school.

How did you first learn about these projects?

I learned about Pro Bono Legal Services through our school’s career services department.  The armed robbery bill I learned about when Marybeth came to speak to the Criminal Law Society.  I contacted her afterwards and told her I wanted to help in any way that I could.

What was his most rewarding pro bono experience?

The most rewarding thing for me was a wills clinic I organized in October.  Sometime before that I helped conduct surveys with senior citizens on behalf of the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging.  None of the senior citizens had wills, and they each cited the same reason — they couldn’t afford it.  So that prompted me to organize a wills clinic at the same senior center.  Pro Bono Legal Services sponsored it and it was really successful.  Securing property in South Carolina is an important issue; every piece of property secured is one step closer towards a more prosperous South Carolina.

Any surprises?

The utmost appreciation and cooperation from everyone involved.

What have you learned while doing this project?

The most helpful thing I’ve learned is how cooperative people are.

Future legal plans?

I would like to eventually open my own civil firm in Florence, SC.  In the meantime I may work in the public sector to save money before I venture into starting my own practice.

Future pro bono plans?

I will certainly volunteer my time as much as I can within my community.

Advice for other law students?

Pro bono work is an excellent way to meet great attorneys and expand your understanding of the law.  With pro bono you have the opportunity to get practice experience in almost any area of interest.  When you’re willing to work for free, the world is your oyster.  <smile>


Obama’s National Day of Service

I can’t say that my classmates and I were always enthusiastic about sitting through our professional responsibility class (or most classes for that matter). So I was surprised at how intense the debate became when the topic of possible mandatory pro bono work came up.

While several of my classmates supported the idea, a good many were adamantly opposed, stating that they would simply leave the pro bono work to be done by those people who actually cared. They would do the rainmaking and the pro bono department at their would-be large firm would do the “dirty work” so to speak. 

Alex Reading Ethics
Alex Reading Ethics

Now, I won’t claim that the idea of a large paycheck isn’t appealing, but there is more to the legal profession.  The legal profession is one that has traditionally sounded in working for the public good. 

That’s why I was happy to read that since 2006, there has been an 8% increase in the number of pro bono hours worked by attorneys.

The ABA now asks the nation’s lawyers to support President Obama’s plan for a national day of service and even provides a website listing pro bono opportunities throughout the nation.

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