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

Monday, March 14, 2011

SUCCESS with SUCCESSIONS and much more!

I am proud to say that my first experience of the spirit, excitement, and soul that the city of New Orleans has to offer was with UNC Pro Bono. I would like to first highlight my work experience and then mix in some of the cultural experiences that made working with the attorneys and citizens of New Orleans so rewarding.

We were welcomed into the New Orleans Pro Bono with a traditional New Orleans King Cake. Having never been to the area, I felt as if the attorneys were making a great gesture at helping us to fit into the New Orleans culture. The basic synopsis of the king cake: try not to slice a piece of cake with the baby! After enjoying some cake, we were immediately immersed into our legal subject areas. Although I wanted to work on family law, the group and project need was with intestate succession and estate cases. After gaining a more accurate understanding of my job tasks, I found creating affidavits to present to clients who were unable to track title to family property, to be rewarding. What I found most interesting about working on the succession cases is that requirement of accuracy forced me to pay attention to detail and to truly learn and appreciate the language of deeds and the creation of an affidavits, and the economic effects that carelessness can have on the attorney. What I liked most about the succession cases were the client interaction. I had the chance to work in the wills and succession clinic, where I interviewed clients seeking to have a succession completed on their family’s property. Among the people I interviewed, I learned that one family’s home was lost in Katrina and that the family simply wanted the property in hopes that one day it would be worth more. Client interaction is by far the most exciting and rewarding part of doing pro bono. In that single moment of interaction, you are an attorney, at least in the clients eyes, and its your expertise, preparation, and empathy that can be a catalyst of change in their respective situations.

I learned a valuable lesson in New Orleans, sometimes you have to do what you don’t like or arent particularly interested in, so that one day you can do what you love. Thanks to the insight of the attorneys in the NO Pro Bono Office, I was able to also work with a family law attorney in my last couple of days. I worked on child abuse and neglect cases. I had a first hand chance to shadow an attorney and to learn what issues are most prevalant amongst neglected children. For many neglected kids in New Orleans, a good portion of their family was relocated after hurricane Katrina or are deceased. These were the cases in which the children were listed as neglected, however; child abuse, rape, and teenage pregnancies seemed to be the overwhelming majority of the cases. My job was to provide an update to the supervising attorney, an outside perspective, as to whether or not the office should continue to handle the case, close the file, or if it was outside our scope, pass it to another attorney.

In addition to these opportunities, I also took time to immerse into the NOLA culture. I went on a swamp tour and learned about alligators, the history of Cajuns and Creoles in LA, about the rivers and bayous, and families that live in those bayous. It was amazing to see how invested the people living in the bayous were in maintaining their dwelling place. After Katrina hit and completely wiped everything out, they rebuilt. It was a very strong city and me experiences in New Orleans have strengthened my commitment to public service.


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