Pro Bono Project expands community offerings in new Smith Anderson Office of Community Outreach

Photo of students walking out of Pro Bono office

From helping Legal Aid with “Lawyer on the Line” to assisting cancer patients with advance directives to counseling area youth through Reclaiming Futures and Teen Court programs, 41 percent of Wake Forest Law students provided 3,710 of supervised pro bono legal hours throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, equaling the highest participation in a single year, according to Pro Bono Project organizers.

Outreach Director Beth Hopkins (BA ’73), working with new Pro Bono Project Coordinator Denise Hartsfield (JD ’91), says the program is continually expanding its offerings, including a new partnership with Samaritan Ministries to offer expungement clinics and helping the Immigration Project with the naturalization process.

“This law school has attracted dedicated and compassionate students who are committed to serving people in the community who have limited access to legal information,” Hopkins says. “Not only are our students creative, but they are committed to continuing their work when they engage in the practice of law. It is inspirational to see our students assist people who appreciate their work.”

The Pro Bono Project moved into the newly appointed Smith Anderson Office of Community Outreach on the second floor of the Worrell Professional Center in summer 2015.

In April, 18 members were inducted into the Pro Bono Honor Society at a Reynolda Hall dinner with Dean Suzanne Reynolds (JD ’77). Each student completed at least 50 hours of pro bono work in a single school year or 75 hours over multiple years.

The JD Class of 2016 won the annual Pro Bono class competition that rewards the class with the highest percentage of hours donated to pro bono work with a barbecue held on April 8 in the Worrell Courtyard. The second-year law students logged 1,629 hours that translated to 50 percent class participation compared with 30 percent participation from the Class of 2015 and 39 percent particpation from the Class of 2017.

In April, the Pro Bono Project conducted its “First Know Your Rights” presentation coordinated by Stephanie Jackson (JD ’17), for more than 30 inmates at the Cherry Street Prison in Winston-Salem. Ashley Brompton (JD ’15) worked closely with the volunteers to help identify applicable North Carolina laws regarding what to do when approached by a police officer.

The Pro Bono Project held numerous free Wills Clinics throughout North Carolina,  including in Alleghany, Pembroke and Richmond counties. Law students worked with Legal Aid offices and local attorneys to help senior citizens draft and notarize simple wills. The Pro Bono Project partnered with the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) to host a Wills for Heroes event in November 2014 at the Winston-Salem Police Department.

A session of Teen Court, which allows law and high school students to act as attorneys, was held at the law school with Judge Hartsfield presiding in October 2014 following a Teen Court Academy training, sponsored in part by the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Forsyth County Bar Association. Teen Court provides youth ages 16 and younger a way to answer for first-time offenses while still keeping their record clean, explains Pro Bono Project Director Carson Smith (JD ’16).

The law school has also partnered with the Raleigh-based Smith Anderson law firm to recognize at graduation a Wake Forest Law student who has shown an exceptional commitment to pro bono service. Hannah Nicholes (JD ’15) is the recipient of the inaugural Smith Anderson Exceptional Service Pro Bono Award.

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