For the Good of the Gulf: UNC Law Winter/Spring Break Pro Bono Project

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

For the Good of the Gulf: UNC Law Winter Break Pro Bono Project

Rule 6.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility provide that lawyers should annually perform 50 hours of pro bono service for individuals unable to afford them. The rule seems simple enough. The problem arises, however, as it often does, in applying the rule to a certain set of facts. Here, what does a lawyer's professional responsibility mean for a group of law students on winter break in the wake of tragic natural disaster?

Here's another question related to a lawyer's professional responsibility. Someone recently asked me what I thought the role of lawyers should be in redevelopment effort. It was a difficult question because it was hard to separate it from the question of what is the role of law students and from the question of what is the role of any of us who do not live in the Gulf Coast?

The problems facing New Orleans reconstruction are urgent and cannot be left until tomorrow. As such, this winter break is a good place to start answering these types of questions. As we begin to tackle one small tiny piece of restoring the legal system through simply helping the New Orleans Pro Bono Project identify their existing case load, we are exposed to the multitude of legal issues that exist and the personal stories of individuals effected by the storm. For example, the reason we must determine the status of every file is because the courts no longer have access to the information. Some attorneys have not yet returned since the storm and others are slowly making their way back with answering machines saying, "we've returned and are ready for business."

Many thanks to UNC staff, faculty, students, the Pro Bono Board, and the Donald and Elizabeth Cooke Foundation for creating opportunities to encourage law students to apply Rule 6.1 to their own lives, whether in assisting hurricane victims or the on-going pro bono needs in their communities.

Diane Standaert

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