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

Monday, February 08, 2010

"Any small contribution from students can be an immense help"

On the last working day of our trip, several of us working with the Pro Bono Project visited the court house in Orleans Parish to file divorce petitions we had drafted and reviewed with clients earlier in the week. While at the court house, Judge Madeline Landrieu took time to speak with us.

I know that I was apprehensive about attempting to do legal work after only one semester of law school and questioned how much I could really accomplish. The work I did on this trip and Judge Landrieu’s remarks convinced me that, regardless of your level of legal training, you can help. I realized how much I had, in fact, learned the first semester of law school and how my small amount of knowledge could be put to use. Judge Landrieu pointed out that doing the smallest, seemingly most basic work, for an organization can be a huge help. I spent time researching adoption statutes, filling out divorce petitions, reviewing the petitions with supervising attorneys, and meeting with clients to get the paperwork signed for filing. This work provided me an opportunity to learn about a very specific area of the law, develop research skills, and interact with clients and supervisors. Most importantly, however, it freed up more senior attorneys to work on more complex cases. Judge Landrieu reminded us that as legal professionals, attorneys are the public’s access to the legal system, and that organizations like the Pro Bono Project that provide free legal services are so inundated with clients, that any small contribution from students can be an immense help. As much as I know that we helped the Pro Bono Project, I think I took away even more for myself, including the motivation and confidence to continue doing pro bono work throughout my law school career.

Thank you to all the legal professionals in New Orleans who hosted us, Judge Landrieu for taking the time to meet with us and for reinforcing how important our visit was, and to my fellow law students for an overall amazing experience. -- Jenna Hoeler

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