- 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 stories here!
- 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 (Volunteer Opportunities)
- 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 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 practical experience.
- 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.
- @USCLawProBono starts tweeting on a regular basis
- 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 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 Light Foundation.
- Carolina Clerks: Pro Bono Clerks for Pro Bono Lawyers creates a special group of volunteers to work with SC Court of Appeals Pro Bono Program. 1005 of the lawyers who requested a volunteer law clerk were matched!
- 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 youth
- 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 2011.
- 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 Food Bank.
- 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.
Pamela D. Robinson, Director, Pro Bono Program
- An Open Letter To the Law School Community
- 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 offenses.
- 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