The Palmetto LEADER is a custom-built bus that includes two private offices, a waiting area, and the technology to allow for on-site delivery of services such as drafting wills, reviewing legal documents, and providing legal counsel to those who are otherwise unable to afford assistance. To our knowledge, it is the only mobile law office operated by a law school in the United States.
While the Palmetto LEADER provides services directly to the public, it does so by partnering with non-profit agencies and organizations in remote parts of the state. After identifying a need and selecting a date, the community partner reaches out to its clients who can then sign up for the services provided by the Palmetto LEADER.
Once on site, law students will work alongside pro bono attorneys to provide a variety of legal services free of charge. Typically, the Palmetto LEADER will arrive at its location by mid-morning and stay until mid- to late-afternoon to assist as many individuals as it can before returning back to Columbia.
The Palmetto LEADER anticipates traveling out to underserved areas of the state twice a month.
Locations are selected based on a number of factors including poverty data, accessibility of legal services, connections to the legal profession, and availability of other resources. In short, the Palmetto LEADER will go where its services will be most helpful. It may also be able to help during disaster situations within the state.
Current South Carolina Law students and South Carolina attorneys are eligible to volunteer with the Palmetto LEADER and are encouraged to visit the Volunteer Opportunities page to learn more about the process.
The Palmetto LEADER was made possible through a gift from the Konduros Fisherman Fund by the late James Konduros, a 1954 alumnus.
The law school was looking for a name that reflected the goals of the project as well as honored the intent of the donor. LEADER is an acronym for legal advocacy and education resources. In researching the name, we discovered a reference to an African American newspaper, The Palmetto Leader, that covered Richland County from 1925 until the mid-1960’s.
The law school reached out to Bobby Donaldson, an associate professor of history & African American studies at the university to learn more about this newspaper and its impact on the state. He noted that Nathaniel J. Frederick, a pioneering civil rights attorney in South Carolina, served as editor of The Palmetto Leader for a number of years. Donaldson also said that the newspaper was an early champion of “equal justice under the law.”
South Carolina Law hopes that everyone who comes in to contact with The Palmetto LEADER understands how it embodies many of the same themes and ideas underscored nearly a century ago by the newspaper with whom it shares its name.
South Carolina attorneys and South Carolina Law students should visit the Volunteer Opportunities page to learn more about serving the public aboard the Palmetto LEADER.