Happy New Year! Welcome 2014

It’s been a really good year for South Carolina Access to Justice! Below is our newsletter that highlights a few items we’ve been working on.

SCATJ Newsletter End of Year 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!

~rfw

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Celebrate Pro Bono: Ashley Cole

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

Meet ASHLEY COLE, 3L at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Ashley Cole

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!

~RFW

It’s official – Poster and FAQs online – en español

Good News!  ¡Buenas noticias!

The South Carolina Courts’ Self-Help Page now offers FAQs (General Questions, Circuit Court and Family Court) and an explanation about what court staff can and cannot in Spanish!

And many thanks to student volunteers with the USC School of Law’s Pro Bono Program and the kind folks at HABLA!

-RFW

Focus on Pro Bono: Kate Loveland

Kate Loveland

Kate is currently a 2L, taking business corporations, products liability, constitutional law II, evidence, and professional responsibility. Currently her favorite class is products liability.  At USC School of Law, Kate is active with the Pro Bono program, the Moot Court Bar, and Phi Delta Phi.

Current Pro Bono Service:

Juvenile arbitrator for the 11th Circuit.

What does that entail?

“Every few weeks I receive a case from the solicitor’s office and spend time preparing for it before I meet with the juvenile, their parents, and the victim (if there is one). Then I work with all of the involved parties to come up with age-appropriate sanctions for the juvenile to complete. If the juvenile completes all of the sanctions within 90 days, the juvenile finishes the program and their case is closed. The program is designed to keep first time offenders out of the family court system, and give them another chance to restore the harm they’ve done through committing their crime to the community. The great thing about the program is that many of the sanctions given to the juvenile are designed to facilitate their involvement in the community and get them involved in projects that they might actually be interested in.”

How did you become involved in this specific project?

“I became a certified arbitrator during my senior year at the College of Charleston, when one of my professors suggested it as an internship program. It was a program I felt passionate about, and I wanted to continue in the arbitration program when I came to law school. I was transferred from the 9th circuit up to the 11th circuit, when I came to Columbia for law school.”

What have you learned from participating in this pro bono program?

“I think what surprises me most about the program that I am involved in is how much I actually get out of it every time I arbitrate a case. Not only do I learn more about an area of law, but I also always come away with the feeling that I’ve helped someone by just donating an hour of my time to the arbitration hearing.”

Do you see yourself staying involved in this or other pro bono programs?

“I’ve really enjoyed my experience as a juvenile arbitrator, which is why I want to continue to take arbitration cases and stay involved in the program, even when I am in private practice. It is probably a program I will always stay involved in, just because I really believe in what it does in giving first time offenders another chance to change their behavior.”

Advice to other law students:

“I would suggest that everyone in law school at some point participate in at least one pro bono activity. I think it’s important for students to understand that their role as a lawyer can be so much more, in that they can really give back to the community with the knowledge that they have learned about their profession.”

-RFW

Alex Hegji – Presidential Management Fellow!

Remember Alexandra D. “Alex” Hegji, the first law clerk for the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission? Well, she graduated this year. And she graduated with a JOB. And she moved to Washington, D.C. to start her job. This I knew.

However, when I was out at the Equal Justice Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, I ran into Pamela D. Robinson, the director of the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program. (yes, I know – it’s bad when it takes running into a local at a national conference many miles away) That’s when I learned that Alex was a Presidential Management Fellow!

How cool is that!?!?!

She’ll be working at Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is charged with ensuring a safe work environment under the OSH Act of 1970.

Congratulations Alex!

– RFW

Have you signed up?

If you’re an attorney who wants to know Everything about Everything, then you want to sign up for the SC Bar CLE entitled “Everything You Want To Know About Everything.”

It will be held LIVE in Columbia at the USC School of Law Auditorium, Columbia, South Carolina and via video-CLE Satellite at the following 11 locations around the state:

The speakers will cover topics from Sentencing to DUI to Self-Represented Litigants to Ethics. I hope to see you there!

-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