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Work in progress: Pro Bono Program still growing at 20

To celebrate 20 years of volunteering, the Pro Bono Program at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law will . . . do more volunteering.

It’s by design, actually, that the law school’s highly decorated, student-driven program will downplay the anniversary. Pam Robinson, the program’s founder and director, said it has developed and thrived because of a deep-seated commitment to selflessly helping others. Anything in the way of an anniversary gala, she said, would detract from that core identity.

And so, other than creating a modest web site commemorating the program’s foundation – http://law.sc.edu/pro_bono/20/index.shtml -- Robinson and her charge of 28 students have used the anniversary as a springboard to another season of good works. The only real celebratory activity occurred last fall. Yet even that -- the establishment of the South Carolina Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (SCVLA), an online service that provides pro-bono assistance to the arts community -- was in lock step with the program’s mission.

“Instead of doing an event to celebrate ourselves, we launched a new project,” said Robinson. “It just seemed the best way to celebrate 20 years of doing pro bono work was to keep on doing it.”

Perpetuating the spirit of pro bono – literally “for the public good,” shortened from the Latin phrase, “pro bono publico” – is what Robinson has done since she turned a casual conversation with then-dean John Montgomery into what would become a national model. Students from throughout the program’s history are living testimonials to its long-lasting impact on their professional philosophy and attitude toward philanthropic causes.

“As a student, it definitely reinforced how helpful I could be with a legal education,” said Molly Day, a 1999 graduate practicing in Hilton Head Island. “I always wanted to help other people, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of what a legal education could do. Pro bono work helped me realize how much I could help, how lawyers had the opportunity to be community leaders if they take it upon themselves.”

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Pro Bono Program

  • What: School of Law's celebrated student organization of voluneerism
  • Who: Pam Robinson founded and directs the program more than 20 years ago and still directs the 28 students now involved

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