Continued: Pro Bono
Not all projects are directly related to legal assistance. Indeed, the program has strict and clear guidelines on what students can and cannot do. One common misconception is that they offer legal advice, but only licensed attorneys are allowed to do that. Much of the program’s long-term effectiveness, Robinson said, sprouts from students performing basic needs, such as sorting food at Harvest Hope Food Bank, literacy coaching, or tutoring students at Logan Elementary School.
Students are, however, allowed to work under the supervision of licensed attorneys and can perform various tasks, such as legal research, related to ongoing cases.
That was part of Day’s experience. In her work with Sistercare Inc., a Midlands program of services for battered women and their children, she helped women fill out restraining orders and often accompanied the victims to court when they had to face their batterers.
The program has expanded and evolved into a network that has served as many as 20 local organizations during a given academic year, including Project Ayuda, a program that addresses legal needs in the Hispanic community; Richland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), for children victimized by abuse or neglect; and the SC Access to Justice Commission, which supports civil legal representation for citizens with low or moderate means. Some students work with pro bono attorneys through the SC Bar Pro Bono Program.
Former accountant Joy Middleton, now in her third year of law school, plans to pursue a career in tax law and found a natural niche in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, in which volunteers prepare basic tax returns using online software. She also volunteered as a teacher assistant at Logan Elementary School, offering her background in math to students there.
“It just gives me a good feeling, knowing I can help others that can’t help themselves,” she said.