Pro Bono Committee launches schoolwide Pro Bono Project

The Wake Forest University School of Law’s Pro Bono Committee is launching its Pro Bono Project on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

“Of course, this community has been engaged and will always be engaged in a variety of pro bono and community service initiatives,” says Professor Suzanne Reynolds, committee chair. “With this new project, we want to encourage those ongoing efforts and add new ones by providing some structure to connect our students with lawyers and organizations engaged in pro bono work.”

Dean Blake Morant and the faculty will gather in the courtroom to kick off the Pro Bono project at noon. Lunch will be provided.

“To keep us all focused on the project, we will start a competition among the first-year, second-year, and third-year students with the prize and other details to be explained at the program,” Reynolds said. “Professor Foy and other members of the faculty will share some of their pro bono experiences, and we will highlight the ongoing and the new opportunities that make Wake Forest law school a special place and this profession so rewarding. It’s a great way to start the semester and your professional life.”

Projects include working with private law firms in bankruptcy and family law and Legal Aid of North Carolina in Winston-Salem as well as projects sponsored by student organizations such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Wills for Heroes. Students can visit the bulletin board outside Room 1312 and sign up for specific projects, said Jackie Willingham, a second-year law student and member of the pro bono committee.

“The pro bono challenge is to work on a pro bono project this academic year,” she said. “For students that have already done this work, we want them to tell us about it. The competition winner will be based on the percentage of students per class who do pro bono work during this academic year including last semester.”

Professor John Knox says, “The great thing about the practice of law is that it can be interesting and worthwhile. Not all legal work qualifies on both counts, but pro bono work nearly always does. One reason it’s interesting is that it lets you step outside your normal legal world, whatever that is, and learn about a different one.

“When I was in private practice, I spent years representing a convicted drug dealer in his appeals to the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court. Quite a change from my normal cases, which involved endangered animals, not imprisoned convicts. Pro bono work is also highly worthwhile, because you’re helping people who are facing terrible problems and have nowhere else to turn. In recent years, I’ve worked with the Maldives, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, as they try to invoke human rights law to respond to the threat climate change poses to their way of life.“

“On Tuesday, students will have the chance to kick-start your own pro bono career. Dean Morant, Professor Reynolds, and the many students who have been working on the school’s pro bono committee will roll out the new, school-wide pro bono project. In a nutshell, it’s designed to make it easy for students to work on pro bono projects while they’re still here.”