The Pro Bono Program has long history of serving the students, faculty & staff, and
legal community of the School of Law.
The Palmetto LEADER arrived in February, and immediately began providing legal services to rural communities.
On March 15th the law school moved to remote engagement due to the COVID-19 virus.
On March 23rd volunteers starting preparing and transmitting tax returns for low income
taxpayers using a “Virtual VITA” option.
April — the SC Bar initiated a COVID-19 Legal Hotline. A team of law students were
trained to check the hotline, remove calls, gather information and respond to questions
by referring callers to appropriate resources. In addition, volunteers started the
process of updating the 14 sections of the SC Bar Law School for Non-Lawyers Manual.
Celebrate Pro Bono Month was held in October and a different student was featured
on Twitter. Photos of each student with a large red “30” were shared.
The Carolina Survivor’s Clinic was added as a student opportunity. Students conducted
citizenship preparation classes for the patients of the Clinic
The City of Columbia City Counsel, declared March 18, 2020 as “USC School of Law Pro
Bono Program Day”.
August 2019 kicks off the 30th Anniversary year for the Pro Bono Program
New Project — Root and Rebound, a national project working to assist recently incarcerated persons overcome the
barriers to reentry into society. The project works on addressing policy barriers
as well as helping to inform the local communities of the challenges this population
faces when trying to become successful.
Renewal of projects with SC Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities are
underway. In addition to the existing Team Advocacy Project, plans are being made
to involve students with a voter protection and a representative payee project.
Food Truck Tuesdays — each Tuesday in September a different food truck arrived at
the Law School. Tips collected are being donated to the Allendale-Fairfax Education
Foundation to support their tutoring efforts.
Welcome to the new Pro Bono Program Alumni Advisory Council! This amazing group of local attorneys have been assembled to help provide guidance
and inspiration to the Pro Bono Program especially as we approach our 30th Anniversary.
Their connections to the local community will serve as a valuable resource for the
Program and for individual students.
Two new projects were developed with the 5th Circuit Public Defender’s Office. The Homeless Court Case Preparation Project and the Special Research Project. Both of these projects continued the efforts of the Pro Bono Program to connect
with our legal community and provide useful skills opportunities for students.
In May of 2018 the Pro Bono Program moved into its new home, Room 386 in the new Law
A blog, The 386°View was launched bringing news, views and stuff you can use to the web! The blog houses
not only a useful events calendar but many photos and announcements in an easy to
Instagram! The Pro Bono Program can be found at: USCLawProBono
Student volunteers assist community with tax returns: Even University of South Carolina School of Law tax professor and expert Tessa Davis
admits tax season can be an intimidating and stressful time. That’s why she says the
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is such an important service to the community.
This year, law student volunteers prepared 122 tax returns and filed 98 more.
Pro Bono Program Lights up the Airways: SC Public Radio recently focused on the Pro
Bono Program and they discovered a great sense of humility and community that has
lasting impact. Patrick Cleary, a SC Bar YLD volunteer and 2L Reed Swearingen discussed
their involvement with the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Program). Board President Robbin
Wilder explored the lasting effect of pro bono engagement on her career.
Partnering with StoryCorps: Stories Worth Hearing: StoryCorps, a national non-profit oral history organization came to Columbia in
2016. Through one on one conversations, a broad spectrum of friends, family, students,
and alumni explored a wide range of topics and issues. You can enjoy their recorded
Pamela Robinson named SC Lawyer of the Year Pamela D. Robinson, director of the Pro
Bono Program, was named the 2016 South Carolina Lawyer of the Year by South Carolina
Lawyers Weekly at a special ceremony held on March 10. Robinson, who is also among
the magazine’s 2016 “Leader in Law” honorees, created the Pro Bono Program in 1989,
which has since developed into a vital part of this law school’s culture.
Good Deed Friday! Lots of Smiles, Lots of Help! Small things come in amazing packages
and this small team of volunteers worked hard at the Habitat ReStore on Friday, Sept.
9th. Many of the volunteers are 1Ls and found this to be a great way to take a break
from studying! Thanks to Simone Holloway, Gabe Strenk, Alex Zimmerman, Brooke Hiltbold,
Matt Young and Chelsea Evans. Good Deed Friday is a periodic community service opportunity
coordinated by the Pro Bono Program. The SBA joined in this event. The next Good Deed
Friday is Oct. 7th at Harvest Hope Food Bank
25th Anniversary Stories to celebrate 25 years of the University of South Carolina School of Law Pro Bono
Program and the ripple effect it has had on our state, nation, and even the world.
Learn how our successful alumni have connected the knowledge of the classroom to their
communities through service.
The Winter Pro Bono Program Newsletter has arrived! The Difference contains information
on volunteer opportunities that will provide you with experience and networking. Read
and act now! Detailed job descriptions are located on the Pro Bono Program website
Free tax preparation assistance for low income and elderly community For the 24th
year, certified volunteer law students at the School of Law will provide tax assistance
to the low income and elderly communities. From February 13 to March 26, tax returns
will be prepared on Wednesdays between 5:30–8:00 p.m. and Saturdays between 9 a.m.–12:00
p.m. in the law school lobby.
New wills for seniors project being launched Starting in September, law students will be able to spend one Friday a month helping
lawyers prepare wills for local area low income senior citizens. The My Will project
is a collaborative effort of the Pro Bono Program, the SC Bar, and the Central Midlands
Area Agency on Aging. This is a hands-on opportunity that provides real life skills
engagement. 3–5 volunteers needed each month. Sign up now!
The Rural Justice Project continued and brought its focus to Winnsboro. Two further
the reach of the information the students started recording the presentations as podcasts
with a goal of offering the full panoply of topics to all SC public libraries via
the SC Access to Justice Commission web site. In addition new topics under construction
include orders of protection and domestic violence as well as juvenile rights and
In collaboration with the Midlands Mediation Center, 14 students completed 24 hours
of training and 16 hours of observation to become mediators in magistrate’s court
The SC Bar’s SC.FreeLegalAnswers (formerly caled SCLawAnswers) was so popular with the public that soon there was
a backlog of questions awaiting answers from volunteer attorneys. To address this
backlog First Friday’s were created. Building on the success of the Virtual Research
Volunteers, First Friday volunteers meet in the afternoon on the first Friday of each
month. Working as a team the lawyers and students draft responses and reduce the backlog
allowing the SC Bar to advertise this valuable service to the public.
In August the Pro Bono Program marked a major milestone — its 25th year of connecting
the knowledge of the classroom to the experience to the community
Cassie Huggins: volunteer, teacher and advocate for youth Each day teenagers are faced
with choices and sometimes they do not make the wisest decisions but there are volunteers
who believe they should not be saddled with one bad decision for the rest of their
lives. Cassie Huggins is one of those remarkable volunteers.
6th Incoming Community Service Project is Huge Success! How do you measure success?
Is it the width of the smiles even on a hot and sweaty day? Or the number of faculty
and students jointly engaged in community service? Yes and yes! By all measure the
6th Incoming Student Community Service Project was a great success. What did Dean
Wilcox think of the Service Project?
Ping Pong for Poverty The Pro Bono Program joined forces with Phi Alpha Delta to raise
funds for Harvest Hope Food Bank by conducting a ping pong tournament. Ping Pong for
Poverty started with qualifying rounds during the week of Nov. 3–7. Other rounds were
held during the "Best Class Food Drive Week" November 10–14. The Final match was held
in the Lobby at 12:30 on November 12th.
Alum receives Americorps Equal Justice Works Fellowship 2014 alumnus Lonnie Doles
has been selected for an Americorps Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Doles will be
serving as an Employment Opportunity Fellow at South Carolina Legal Services, providing
assistance to remove barriers to employment for unemployed or underemployed people
who are actively seeking jobs.
Pam Robinson Receives SCWLA Foundation’s 2014 Martha B. Dicus Award Pam Robinson,
director of the University of South Carolina School of Law’s Pro Bono Program, was
named the second recipient of the Martha B. Dicus Award for Public Interest Law by
the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association Foundation. According to the SCWLA Foundation,
the award is given to “an attorney who exemplifies Martha’s commitment and zeal in
using the law to serve the most vulnerable in our communities.”
The tax team posts another successful filing year! For the 22nd year volunteers with
the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program have conscientiously prepared returns for elderly
and low income tax payers in SC. For 8 weeks the trained and certified students work
through the intricacies of the 1040. This year everyone had to learn how to navigate
the Affordable Care Act and explain how it affects tax status. At the conclusion of
tax season the team enjoys perusing the resulting data as they are reminded of the
VITA program motto “You benefit, we learn.”
New Probate Court Special Visitors Trained and Ready to Help Eleven students have
completed training and are now ready to assist the Richland County Probate Court with
guardianship cases. The SC Probate Court Special Visitors Project not only aids the
Court with valuable investigations and reporting but the student volunteers gain important
New Semester, New Projects, Latest Newsletter The latest edition of The Difference
has arrived! Take a look and decide if one of the upcoming pro bono projects fits
your needs — does it provide an opportunity to expand the skills you will need? Does
it peak your interest in a future career? For the very latest information on projects
make sure to sign up on TWEN, follow us on Twitter or try the old-fashioned way —
come by the office and ask! A online copy of this publication is located here but
students please note, your own personal copy is in your mailbox!
Adams and Reese and USC Law: A Great Pro Bono Team Effort On a beautiful Fall Friday
ten lawyers from Adams and Reese were joined by seven USC School of Law Pro Bono Program
volunteers with one task in mind — answer the over 65 questions awaiting responses
on the SC Bar’s website. By 1:30 there was resounding applause from the entire team
as the number in the queue reached zero.
Different skills, different goals — a positive experience Since June Sara Brinson
and Chris Fedalei have had the opportunity to put their knowledge and skills to work
at the Death Penalty Resource and Defense Center. The Center needed help with a very
special project and looked to the USC School of Law for that help.
In collaboration with the SC Access to Justice Commission a team of students took
on the task of reaching out to the rural areas of SC by providing presentations on
timely topics. The students created the presentations, marketing material and resource
lists and after practicing they provided the public with practical educational guidance
on topics that included divorce, landlord-tenant and identity theft. The Rural Justice
Project is funded by a grant from the State Justice Institute. Presentations on expungement
and child support were added to the repertoire.
M.Y. Pro Bono created. M.Y. Pro Bono (Managing Your Pro Bono) is a cloud based program
that allows students to track their time volunteering.
The SC Bar launched SCLawAnswers (now known as SC.FreeLegalAnswers) as a means by which volunteer attorneys could answer legal questions posted by low-income
members of the public. Law students are available to assist with any research needed
but additionally a team of students was recruited under a new project called the Virtual
Research Volunteers. To help alleviate the backlog of questions, the VRV’s receive
a list of questions posted to the secure website, select the ones they want to address,
draft a response and submit it to the director of the Pro Bono Program who then approves
or modifies and posts the response.
In July, the Pro Bono Program was selected to be a representative of the Daily Points
of Light at a White House ceremony. President Barack Obama spoke at the ceremony,
announced the recipient of the 5,000 Daily Point of Light and also honored former
President George H.W. Bush. Also in attendance were Mrs. Obama, Mrs. Bush, Dr. Jill
Biden and numerous members of Congress as well as the leadership of the Points of
The Pro Bono Program and the SBA formalize their arrangement to provide periodic community
service activities. “Good Deed Fridays” started in the Fall and offered monthly opportunities
for students and organizations to engage in an afternoon of service as such locations
as Harvest Hope Food Bank, St. Lawrence Place and the Habitat ReStore.
In October the Law School participated in the White House’s Champion of Change program.
Live from the White House Attorney General Eric Holder and leaders in the field of
public interest law addressed issues of importance to the profession.
To kick off the Fall Best Class Food Drive, the law school celebrated with “Hunger
is not a (Crock) Pot”. Homemade soup prepared by the leaders of over 20 student organizations
were judged by Dean Rob Wilcox and US Attorney Bill Nettles. Prize categories were:
most delicious; most likely to be enjoyed by children; and most likely to be desired
during exams. The $500 proceeds were donated to the Backpack Program at Harvest Hope
Food Bank, helping provide easy to prepare food for children over the weekend.
The SC Probate Court Special Visitors Program is created. Utilizing funds from a Lt.
Governor’s Office on Aging grant two students created a Coordinators, Volunteer and
Training Manual for this Program. The need for trained volunteers to visit wards arose
as a result of the data analyzed from of the surveys student conducted at local senior
centers. The first training was held in the fall for a pilot team.
Volunteers embark on an ambitious updating of the Choices: Legal Awareness Sessions
for Juveniles for the SC Department of Juvenile Justice. Updating involved checking
for current statutory language and adding activities to make it more relevant to today’s
In April the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center hosted a 20th Anniversary Celebration
for members of the legal community. Much fun was had by all and many memories captured
for the next 20 years.
Carolina Clerks: Pro Bono Clerks for Pro Bono Lawyers was launched in the Summer of
In November, during Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week, 25 law students, their families
and friends entered into an agreement to take the SNAP Challenge. The SNAP Challenge
is an effort to bring awareness to the difficulties and challenges people face when
they must live on the equivalent of $4 a day per person. SNAP or the Supplemental
Nutritional Assistance Program was formerly called food stamps. The participants blogged
about their weeklong experience.
Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands recognizes the Pro Bono Program and volunteers
with Project Ayuda for their outstanding contribution to assisting the Hispanic community
by translating the STSM website.
Pro Bono Program starts tweeting, once a week! @USCLawProBono
The SC Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts is established. A collaborative project of the
SC Arts Commission, the SC Bar Pro Bono Program, the USC School of Law Nonprofit Organizations
Clinic and the Law School Pro Bono Program.
The Pro Bono Program enters into a 3 year grant with the Lt. Governor’s Office on
Aging to study and enhance access to legal services for SC’s low income senior citizens.
20th Anniversary of the Pro Bono Program webpage launched!
The 1st Incoming Law Student Community Service Project was conducted in conjunction
with the SBA, and the Office of Student Services. Almost 300 1Ls, SBA members and
Ambassadors, Peer Mentors and faculty members participated at 16 different locations.
Members of the Pro Bono Board served as “reporters” for the blog.
The Class of 2008 reaches a personal goal of donating 100,000 pounds of food to Harvest
Hope Food Bank all by themselves! With a huge effort in the last semester the members
of the Class reached this outstanding goal with a few thousands pounds to spare. They
have set the bar high for succeeding classes. Congratulations to everyone who donated
during their three years in Law School
Three new projects are added to the list of Pro Bono Program Volunteer Opportunities
— The HELP Homeless Legal Clinic, the Free Medical Clinic and the SC Access to Justice
Commission. These three new opportunities join a list of 20+ other projects that have
the attention of USC School of Law student.
New Pro Bono Program Webpage unveiled! Extensive changes to the format of the homepage
for the Pro Bono Program were unveiled. The goal was to make the entire site more
user-friendly, to make it easy for Law Students to enroll through an online link and
to introduce the new “Ethical and Professionalism Issues for USC School of Law Students
Engaged in Pro Bono Work” memo.
The Pro Bono Board initiated a new publication — For the Good Of the Order: Profiles
in Pro Bono. This newsletter featured interviews of outstanding USC alumni and their
ongoing participation in the pro bono activities. Cliff Moore and Marti Bluestein
were the first two profiles.
At the conclusion of the Spring “Best Class” Food Drive, the Pro Bono Program reaches
a goal of 100,000 pounds in 10 years. All canned food was donated to Harvest Hope
At the 2005 ABA Equal Justice Conference in May, it is finally confirmed — the USC
Pro Bono Program was the first voluntary pro bono program in a US law school!
The Pro Bono Program is recognized for its extensive service to the community. In
January the SC Commission on Higher Education presented the Program with the “Service
Learning Commendation”. Also in January the SC Bar Pro Bono Program presented the
Law School the 2003 Pro Bono Service Award.
Project Ayuda: Law Students Helping the Hispanic Community is developed. With a goal
of providing legal information to the growing Hispanic Community in SC, students work
with the Director on accessing, researching and responding to requests for legal information.
This portion of the project is conducted in spanish. In addition to the information
service volunteers with Project Ayuda work with the Young Lawyers Division of the
SC Bar to compile and update of spanish speaking attorneys in SC, collaborate with
other community organizations to provide information and to identify resources and
enhance the knowledge of law students on issues of immigration law.
Working with Phi Delta Phi, volunteers raise money and stock a full emergency clothing
closet for Logan Elementary School.
The Pro Bono Program adds Computer Buddies to its list of projects. In addition, volunteers
will be recruited to participate in the SAS project, Students Assisting Seniors. SAS
is a research project under the direction of USC School of Law Professor Robin Wilson.
Trained volunteers from different disciplines will educate and assist senior seniors
in the process of securing Medicare and Medicaid benefits. SAS utilizes volunteer
law, medical, public health, nursing, social work, and pharmacy graduate students.
Canned Immunity Food Drive, expands to twice a year and becomes a “Best Class” Competition.
Over 8,000 pounds of canned food collected in one semester.
September 11, 2001 In response to the student desires to help and to recover the following
letter was sent to all students.
An Open Letter To the Law School Community There are not enough words to express our emotions over the past few days as everyone
reels from the effects of the recent tragedy in the United States. Our hearts go out
to the victims, their families and the citizens in New York, Washington and Shanksville.
At this time of sorrow we all feel the need to help. This is a normal part of the
healing process. I am in touch with local volunteer organization close to the situation
and if ANY need arises where I think law students can directly assist I will put out
the call. This does not solve our immediate desire to help. I ask that you channel
that desire to your local community. We may not be able to have a direct impact on
the disaster recovery but we can all work to make the world a better place for everyone.
Making a difference one person at a time can be our goal. No drop of blood donated
to the Red Cross will ever go to waste. But have patience, call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE to
schedule an appointment. Whether you choose to help though your faith or through the
Pro Bono Program projects, you will find that there is healing in doing good work.
As members of the legal profession we need to be leaders in the war against intolerance.
Use your intelligence and skills to promote the rule of law. You are urged to listen
to the facts and to weigh the rhetoric. Take the time to discuss the issues with your
fellow students and faculty. I also ask that you have patience - patience with our
leaders and with yourself. Take time to connect with your loved ones and reach out
to those in need of comfort. Now is the time for words of kindness to friends, fellow
classmates and to strangers. If I can be of any comfort or assistance to you at this
very special time please do not hesitate to contact me or drop by the office. The
members of the Pro Bono Board join me in this offer of assistance.
Sincerely, Pamela D. Robinson, Director, Pro Bono Program
McCants Elementary School closes; students and tutors move to Logan Elementary School.
Harvest Hope Food Bank presents the Pro Bono Program with a special award for largest
food drive in the school category.
McCants Elementary School students targeted for weekly assistance by over 30 law student
volunteers. Celebrations begin for 10th anniversary of the program Gov. Jim Hodges
proclaims Pro Bono Day, September 27, 1999 . The Honorable Judith Billings, Utah Court
of Appeals speaks at Anniversary Luncheon in April, 2000. Judge Billings was the first
Jurist-In-Residence at USC School of Law.
Pro Bono Program Web Page debuts. The world of volunteering online (Virtual Volunteering)
is explored. A team of students research and collate the nation’s donated food laws
for Chicago based, national food bank, Second Harvest’s Web page. Indexing of the
South Carolina Bar Ethics Advisory Opinions completed by students.
“Community Service Award” received from Harvest Hope Food Bank.
USC names law student Sydney Meeks as the “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year” and
Women in Law receives “Outstanding Student Organization Award”, honoring their years
of service on behalf of battered women. South Carolina Legal Services relocates to
the Pro Bono Office and results in exciting opportunities for students to assist with
cases and research.
“Canned Immunity” the first major food drive to benefit the local food bank is launched —
To date 25, 463 pounds of food have been donated. Celebration of 5 years of law students
serving as volunteer Guardians ad Litem representing abused and neglected children
in court. Law students volunteer with Lexington County Juvenile Arbitration Program-
a community involvement program that works with first time offenders to prevent future
USC School of Law selected as site for ABA Pilot Project “Pro Se Modification of Child
Support Orders Through the Court”; VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) enrolls
first volunteers to assist low-income persons with their tax forms.
First law school class with 3 years of pro bono experience graduates, over 50% of
student body actively involved. List of volunteer opportunities greatly expands. Named
South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, Volunteer Group of the Year for involvement
in an education project to help at-risk youth. “Guest Chef” project launched. Local
attorneys, judges, and community leaders that support the efforts of the Pro Bono
Program are invited to be the chef at a hot dog sale. Proceeds from the sale are used
to support summer public interest internships. The “Pennies for Pro Bono” fundraising
effort kicks off. Over $1000 raised to benefit SC Bar Pro Bono Litigation Fund.
The concept of a pro bono program takes shape. The goals are developed and the school
receives a grant from the South Carolina Bar Foundation. Discussions begin with students
Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.