Pro Bono Initiative
The University of Mississippi School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative is a unique in-house pro bono program. Student volunteers represent clients in day-long mini-clinics, work on policy initiatives, and provide public education on legal issues. Annually, 100 –plus student volunteers assisted over 500 clients.
Mini-clinics. The program’s client-focused opportunities center around day-long “mini-clinics.” The mini-clinics convene student and attorney volunteers and clients at the law school and in courthouses or community centers around the state. Each event focuses on a particular area of the law. In 2013-14 PBI offered eleven mini-clinics covering family law, wills and estates, and expungement. In 2014, the program added an LGBT document preparation clinic to assist families with planning documents.
Policy initiatives. PBI works with advocacy organizations to develop opportunities for students to work on campus, local, and statewide policy initiatives. Students have worked with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, the Mississippi Center for Justice, and the Mississippi Bar and addressed issues of disaster relief, juvenile justice, domestic violence, incarceration for fees, and access to justice. See the Policy Initiatives tab to review some of our projects.
Networking. In addition to assisting clients, volunteer students work in small teams with practicing attorneys from private practice and public interest organizations who provide invaluable mentoring and practical advice on entering the job market.
To volunteer, email UMProBono@gmail.com
The PBI mini-clinics provide training, mentoring and client services in a high-energy collaborative format. Students leave with the satisfaction of having helped someone and with new connections and skills.
Tiffany M. Graves joined the Pro Bono Initiative in 2014 as an Adjunct Professor. Tiffany previously served as the Executive Director and General Counsel for the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and has extensive experience in designing and implementing pro bono projects. Tiffany was appointed the Executive Director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission in October of 2014.
Tiffany Graves, Adjunct Professor, Pro Bono Initiative
How to volunteer:
To volunteer for a PBI event, email Tommie Jean Brock at UMProBono@gmail.com
A list of events is posted under the calendar tab above.
Pro Bono Credit Hour
Students who perform a minimum of forty hours of volunteer work for an approved pro bono or public interest organization, or on an approved pro bono project, may receive one hour of Z credit. Students may combine work on more than one approved project in order to obtain the credit, and the work may be performed over more than one semester. In that case, the credit will be awarded in the semester in which the student completes the work. STUDENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING UP WITH THEIR HOURS ON VARIOUS PROJECTS AND MUST SUBMIT A LIST OF HOURS AND ACTIVITIES IN ORDER TO OBTAIN CREDIT.
Approval. For the organizations listed below, no advance approval is necessary. For other projects, a student should submit a written request to Registrar Eddie Upton and Professor Deborah Bell for advance approval. The request should describe the organization and the work the student will be doing for the organization.
Certification. When the student’s work is completed, the student should submit a written statement certifying that he/she provided forty hours of volunteer service, listing the organization(s), a brief description of the work performed, (i.e, interviewed clients) and the name and contact information for the student’s immediate supervisor(s). The certification should be sent to Professor Deborah Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Eddie Upton (email@example.com).
- North Mississippi Rural Legal Services
- Pro Bono Initiative
- Central Mississippi Legal Services
- Mississippi Center for Justice
- Mississippi Bar Volunteer Lawyer Project
- Law School Clinical Programs
- Public Interest Law Foundation
- Mississippi Access to Justice Commission
The Family Law Clinics. The PBI sponsors a Family Law Clinic at the law school every semester, assisting North Mississippi residents with divorce, custody, support, adoption, name change, and emancipations.
The Greenville Pro Se Clinics. Each quarter students spend the day at the Greenville courthouse in the Mississippi Delta, assisting pro se litigants to complete pleadings and to prepare their case for presentation to the court.
LGBT Documents Clinic. OUTLAW and PBI partner with the Michigan-based Family Equality Council to host a mini-clinic to assist LGBT families with documents such as wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, and other planning documents.
DeSoto County Pro Se Days. In 2012, PBI added a quarterly pro se day in DeSoto County. Volunteer students interview and assist pro se litigants under the supervision of DeSoto county attorneys in a clinic housed in the courthouse.
Expungement clinic. The Black Law Students’ Association, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Magnolia Bar, and PBI partner to assist North Mississippi residents to expunge criminal records. The clinic educated sixty persons and completed documents for twelve in its first year of operation.
Wills clinic. PBI supports the Military Justice Society to assist Mississippi State Guard members by drafting wills, powers of attorney, and other documents under the direction of JAG attorney Col. William Glover.
Tax clinic. The Initiative’s IRS-approved Tax Practicum project transitioned to a law school clinical program in 2013, taught by Professor Donna Davis. Her students are in the public library each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from late January to early April. PBI volunteer students assist clinic students as greeters and by gathering basic information.
Saints’ Brew. Students and professors travel to the Saints’ Brew ministry at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo, Mississippi to assist in the morning breakfast ministry for the area’s homeless and those at risk of homelessness. The team assists the organizers with research on legal issues facing the Saints’ Brew clients.
Spring break projects
Spring Break Domestic Violence Clinic. The Initiative collaborated on a Spring Break domestic violence project with the Atlanta firm of Kilpatrick Townsend, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation, and the Fulton County Superior Court for spring break 2013. Eight students spent a week in Atlanta assisting victims of domestic violence.
Spring Break Immigration Project. In 2012, PBI partnered with the Public Interest Law Foundation, University of Tennessee School of Law, and University of Memphis School of Law on a Spring Break Immigration Project at the University of Memphis. Eight UM students spent a week in Memphis assisting immigrants to obtain U-Visas.
Policy and Education Initiatives
Pro Se Forms Project. PBI students worked with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and chancery judges to create model forms for use by pro se litigants in simple, uncontested matters. In 2015, The forms will be available in hard copy and through interactive online programs.
Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Initiative. Students gathered and analyzed disciplinary polices from schools in Mississippi to assess the extent to which the policies provide adequate due process protection. The project will support policy efforts of the Mississippi Center for Justice to improve students’ due process rights.
Document Replacement Kit. The Document Replacement Kit, a 100 – page kit available in hard copy and online, provides victims of disaster with instructions and forms for replacing critical documents from drivers’ licenses and certificates of title to savings bonds. This project, prompted by the tornado devastation of April, 2011, is used by the Mississippi Bar and Young Lawyers Division in disaster assistance in Mississippi.
The Child Support Modification Project. Child support payors who become disabled or who lose income through no fault of their own are caught by an intersection of rules designed to punish child support avoiders. Without prompt legal assistance, they may incur substantial, nondischargeable debts. In a two-year project in partnership with North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, volunteer students assisted disabled payors to secure modifications. The project created extensive materials and forms for use by volunteer attorneys to assist legal services clients who fit this category.
Violence Prevention. A team of students worked with Office of Violence Prevention attorney Lindsey Bartlett to educate UM students about violence and stalking.
Housing Education Project. In a two-year project, students educated high school and community college government classes about common renter mistakes, presenting an entertaining and informative courtroom drama. The project created a training package for first-time renters that is available to the public.
Symposia and Conferences
Access to Justice Symposium. The Pro Bono Initiative and Supra, the online version of the Mississippi Law Journal, hosted an Access to Justice Symposium at the law school in the Spring of 2012. Speakers included Mississippi Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and trial court judges, former bar presidents, leaders of Mississippi public interest organizations, and nationally-recognized leaders in the access to justice movement.
Feb. 15. Envisioning a Child-Centered System. In 2013, the Pro Bono Initiative partnered with the Young Lawyers’ Division and the Child Advocacy Clinic to sponsor a day-long workshop on reforming the legal system for children. The workshop teamed representatives from model programs around the country with Mississippi judges and practitioners concerned about the fate of children in the legal system.
Charity Ball Fundraiser. The LSSB Community Service Committee graciously hosts an annual masked ball as a fundraiser for the Pro Bono Initiative, raising funds that provide the primary support for the program.
Upcoming projects: 2014-15
Online Advice and Counsel. PBI, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, and Baker Donelson will partner in a creative new venture to assist low-income Mississippians statewide through an online advice center. Students and attorneys will gather for a monthly clinic to respond to online questions.
2015 CALENDAR OF EVENTS
If you are interested in participating in one or more of the events listed, please email a statement to OleMissProBono@gmail.com indicating the events for which you are volunteering. You will be notified by email if slots are available for the events and of the details of the event. All events listed below count toward the Pro Bono Credit Hour.
Saints’ Brew Project: Tupelo
Legal Clinic: January 27
Food Ministry: February 26, March 26, April 23
Transportation is provided. (8 students)
The dates for the monthly morning breakfast ministry are Thursday, February 26, 2015, March 26, 2015
and April 23, 2015. Please let us know if you are interested in attending. The group typically leaves the law school at 6:00 and returns at 10:00.
(VITA) Clinic helps low and moderate income Lafayette County residents with tax returns on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 3:30 to 6:30 at the Oxford-Lafayette Library. The program preserves much-needed dollars for families by securing tax refunds without charging the high fees that often accompany tax preparation. The Clinic needs volunteers to greet clients gather basic information (no tax expertise needed). You need not be available at each session, but should be able to volunteer for several. For more information about this project contact Walt Terry, firstname.lastname@example.org and Brad Ryan, email@example.com, in addition to OleMissProBono@gmail.com.
The Public Interest Law Foundation
The Mississippi Law Journal
Lafayette County Bar Association
Washington County Bar Association and Chancery Court
DeSoto County Bar Association and Chancery Court
Military Justice Society
Black Law Students’ Association
Kilpatrick Townsend Law Firm, Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer Foundation
Fulton County Superior Court, Georgia
Law School Student Body Service Committee