UNC law students go pro bono over spring break

Students from the University of North Carolina School of Law spent four days over spring break donating time and legal expertise to clients in seven rural  counties in eastern North Carolina.

Twenty volunteers drafted wills, powers of attorney and other documents for more than 40 clients in this underserved region.

“Clients were able to access vital legal services at no cost,” said Mark Dorosin, senior attorney at UNC Center for Civil Rights. “There is a deeply personal value for these clients to know that their assets and possessions would be passed on in the way they had hoped. Several clients expressed great relief.”

Dorosin traveled with the students as they worked with people in community centers

and senior centers. He gave an example of a man who hoped to give his toy car collection, amassed over decades, to his great-grandson. Knowing that his wishes would be met helped him sleep better at night, he said.

Seema Kakad, student-volunteer and one of the trip’s organizers, sited land loss as one of the issues the group addressed with legal contracts.

“When [a client] doesn’t have a will, land gets divided into smaller portions for each member of the next generation,” she said. “While they may not have huge parcels of land to deal with, they get peace of mind knowing that their land will go to someone they trust.”

Providing necessary legal services was the trip’s primary goal, but students benefited from the hands-on experience as well.

Sylvia Novinsky, assistant dean for public service programs, said it’s an opportunity to remember why you came to law school, to help real people with real problems.

“I think we accomplished our goals,” Kakad said. “But we might be the ones who gained the most.”

Students, with direction from Legal Aid of North Carolina attorneys, worked with clients through the entire process, from asking questions to executing documents.

“This trip exposed students to a whole different context to their experiences in law school,” Dorosin said. “They get a sense of the real need for legal services to this area.”

Another benefit? Showing people that lawyers aren’t so bad, after all.

“Many lawyers have good intentions for going into this profession,” Kakad said. “This type of work highlights where our hearts are.”

— by Merideth Kimble