Law students offer pro bono services during Pembroke Wills Clinic

Photo of students at the Pembroke Wills Clinic

Pembroke Wills Clinic

PEMBROKE, N.C. — Four Wake Forest University School of Law students traveled on Sept. 30  to the Pembroke office of Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) where they conducted a Wills Clinic.

The students — Katherine Barber (’12), Kaitlyn Girard (’12), Derrick Lankford (’12) and Scott Villarreal (’12) — drafted simple wills and advance directive documents for low-income LANC clients from Robeson County under the supervision of LANC Staff Attorney David Richardson.

While LANC receives a grant to prepare advance directives for local residents, the demand for these services has greatly exceeded the Pembroke office’s resources, according to Girard, who is the law school’s Pro Bono Project director.

“Under Richardson’s guidance, the Wake Forest students were able to prepare more than 25 documents for 10 LANC clients,” she explained.

The law students are planning to return to Pembroke to conduct another Wills Clinic in late October to commemorate National Pro Bono week and continue to serve area clients.

“Travelling to Pembroke to create wills and other documents for the older residents was a great experience,” Barber said.  “We hit the road with a group of students who are all excited about doing pro bono work, which made the 2 1/2- hour drive seem short.  Both my morning and afternoon appointments were with lovely women, and David Richardson was great at reviewing and providing guidance on questions as they came up. Dale Deese and the Legal Aid folks welcomed us and cooked a seasonal seafood treat for lunch spot, a kind of fish that comes out on the coast at the end of September.  At the end of the day, we joined forces to copy, staple, witness and notarize a last group of a dozen documents.  In one day, our group of four prepared more than 25 wills, advanced directives, and powers of attorney.  We are excited to go back in October.”

It was not Girard’s first visit to Pembroke. She participated in the Pro Bono Project’s spring break trip to the area in March 2011.

“I was struck by how warm and welcoming the LANC staff and the local clients were to a group of ‘foreign’ law students, so I jumped at the chance to visit the office again,” Girard said.  “I have previously worked with Legal Aid and some estate planning projects, but this was the first time I got to interview clients and assist in preparing their wills and other advance directives.  The Robeson County residents I worked with were incredibly understanding and patient about working with a law student, and continued to entertain me with Robeson County stories as I worked on their documents.  I learned a lot about serving low-income clients and preparing legal documents at Pembroke, so I hope we are able to continue working with the LANC office to serve the surrounding community.”

Lankford said the time he spent drafting wills and powers of attorney at the Legal Aid Office of Pembroke offered him so much more than just legal experience.

“It gave me the opportunity to meet and work with fellow classmates whom I had always seen around but never gotten to know,” Lankford said.  “It also gave me the opportunity to meet the good people in Pembroke who do this type of work every day.  They prepared a fantastic fish-fry for all of us, complete with hushpuppies and cole slaw, and it was great to chat and get to know them as well.  Most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to work with and assist clients who needed our help greatly.  It is hard to articulate the amount of satisfaction I have gotten out of knowing that I made a positive impact on their lives.  I look forward to returning in October.”

Villarreal described his participation in the Pembroke Wills Clinic as a truly a great experience.

“I was able to interact with clients one-on-one and give my time to a community that is in need,” Villarreal said. “The best part of the trip was the appreciation expressed by the clients for our willingness to help prepare the wills and advance directives.  I was also impressed by the hospitality we were shown by the staff at Legal Aid.”