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

Focus on Pro Bono: James Gaul

James Gaul is currently a 1L in his first semester at the University of South Carolina  School of Law. As all 1Ls do, he is taking Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, and Property along with legal writing and research. So far, his favorite class is Torts.  While he notes that “it was tough at first now that we are getting past policy and into some cases, it’s the most interesting class in my opinion.”  Running a close second is “Property which seems to be the most straight-forward to me.” James is a member of the Student Bar Association as well as the ABA’s Law Student Division with plans to get more involved with the International Law Society and the Public Interest Law Society.

His current Pro Bono work?

Working as an arbitrator with the Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration Program.

What does that entail?

“Basically, when a juvenile is a nonviolent first time offender, the Lexington County Solicitor prefers to send them through arbitration rather than through the court system.  The juvenile is given the option of going through arbitration instead of going before a judge, leaving them without a court record.  The goal of arbitration is to satisfy the victim of the crime and/or the community while creating sanctions for the juvenile that will help them learn from their actions and develop useful skills to keep them out of the juvenile justice system.  The program has an amazing success rate, something like 95%.  Going through arbitration not only keeps the juvenile out of the justice system for that particular incident, but it also works to help keep them out for good.”

Any noteworthy surprises?

“I was surprised at the amount of training that goes into the Arbitration Program.  We had four weeks of three hours classes that culminated in an exam!   The training was definitely worth it though; I mean we have the lives of young people in our hands, so we had better know what we are doing.”

Takeaway from this experience?

“I have learned so much its hard to choose just what to tell you about.  I guess the most important thing that I have learned is how easy and gratifying it is to help change someone’s life.  After the initial training, an arbitration case will take up three to five hours of your life.  In these three to five hours you are literally changing someone’s life for the better.  Who knew it could be so easy? I was excited going in, and my experience so far has done nothing but increase my excitement.”

Why this program?

“I learned about this project while researching possible law schools.  The reputation of the pro bono program at USC was one of the major draws for me.  The website is http://law.sc.edu/pro_bono/.  When Pam Robinson (the Pro Bono Director) sent out a general email to incoming 1Ls about possible pro bono projects I jumped on it.”

Why the emphasis on Pro Bono?

“I worked my way through undergrad, and was never really able to volunteer.  Now that I am in law school, and forbidden to work I finally have a chance to give back.  Honestly, I also like the practical experience that volunteering will give me, but mostly it’s about a chance to give back to my community.”

Future Pro Bono plans?

“As I mentioned, this is my first semester in law school. I do plan on doing Guardian Ad Litem training in January.  I’m looking forward to it.”

What do you want to tell other law students about your pro bono experience?

“I would like to point out that no matter how busy you are, you can always make time to volunteer.  Not every pro bono opportunity requires lots of intensive training and a big time commitment.  I know at USC you can be a tutor at a local elementary school with a commitment of just one hour a week.  I know how it feels to be overwhelmed with class and everything else that is involved in being a law student, but trust me, volunteering is worth it.  It’s a stress reducer, and it makes you feel like you have accomplished something.”

Parting words?

“Neither the Juvenile Arbitration Program nor the Guardian Ad Litem program requires you to be a lawyer or a law student. Any member of the public can volunteer for either of these programs.”

-RFW