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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Andrew Darcy (2L)

Although the journey to New Orleans may have been tiresome due to the fact that the van ride spanned over thirteen hours, it was well worth the wait. While in New Orleans, we explored the city for their authentic local cuisine and in search of the quintessential nightlife. The city was a lot of fun, but such fun does not come close to the amount of life experiences that I gained through my work at the Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) office. My work at the OPD focused primarily on data entry, legal research and handling initial intake from persons who were arrested for various misdemeanor offenses. In interviewing clients, I received first hand experience as to what those persons are feeling and their side of the story. Additionally, within the interviewing process we asked for various bits of information as to what needs certain inmates desired and which persons they wished for us to contact. For example, such inmates provided us with various contact information of family and friends of whom might be able to post their bond to get them back into their homes.

This experience gave me a greater appreciation of our legal system and how important public defenders are in the legal system. Although our short time at the OPD does not allow us to see the cases through to their fruition, the initial stages were very exciting and it is good to know that the legal system is a place for all. The OPD sees more cases than one could ever imagine due to the high crime rate in New Orleans and any bit of help that we could provide was greatly appreciated. Even though it felt as if we were doing rather simple duties by performing initial client intake, basic legal research and data entry, we were allowing our attorneys to hear more cases by performing a substantial portion of their administrative work.

It seems that although Hurricane Katrina happened several years ago, people are still volunteering and doing what each can do to get the great city of New Orleans back on its feet. This is evident by the work of around 40 volunteer law students from CUNY, American University, and UNC all working together at the OPD office over their Christmas breaks. Furthermore, the OPD seems to be expanding in size and obtaining first class attorneys to handle the wide assortment of legal issues facing the people of New Orleans. In providing legal services, the OPD is ensuring that each underprivileged person in New Orleans is not precluded from the legal system. Although we cannot see the outcome of the cases in which we helped, I know that I learned a great deal about the actual practice of law and the important role that public defenders play in providing legal services for those that are in desperate need of their help.


Post a Comment

<< Home