Pro Bono Initiative

General


The University of Mississippi School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative (“PBI”) is a unique in-house pro bono program. Student volunteers attend legal clinics, where they team with attorney volunteers to interview and assist pro se litigants. Student volunteers can also work on policy initiatives and provide public education on legal issues. Annually, 100 –plus student volunteers assist over 500 clients.

Legal-clinics. The program’s client-focused opportunities center around legal clinics that last anywhere from three hours to all day. The clinics convene student and attorney volunteers and clients in courthouses or community centers around the state. Each event focuses on a particular area of the law. At the clinics, student volunteers team with attorney volunteers to interview pro se litigants and provide advice and/or limited representation in the form of drafting documents and instructing the litigants on how to proceed with their matter.

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.

Public education. PBI student volunteers provide public education on various legal issues to area organizations. Recently, PBI started a prison outreach program, in which students presented educational legal information regarding paternity, custody, child support, and parental rights to a group of inmates at the Marshall County Correctional Facility. PBI plans to continue this outreach and expand upon the legal issues presented.

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

Faculty

 

I enjoy attending pro bono events with the law students. They get the experience of (1) applying their education by assisting people with their legal matters; (2) networking with the attorneys who supervise their work; and (3) knowing they have made a difference in someone’s life. It is truly an uplifting experience.

Kris Simpson, Director of the Pro Bono Initiative; Adjunct Professor for Child Advocacy Clinic

Students

students-pbi

How to volunteer:

Emails are routinely sent to the students detailing upcoming PBI events. To volunteer for an event, email UMProBono@gmail.com. In your email, include the event(s) you are interested in, your phone number, and whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L.

A list of currently scheduled events is also posted under the calendar tab above.

Pro Bono Credit Hour

To receive one hour of pro bono Z credit, students must have forty-five (45) hours of pro bono work. The forty-five (45) hours is accumulated by doing both of the following:

  1. Performing a minimum of forty (40) hours of volunteer work for an approved pro bono or public interest organization or on an approved pro bono project. Students may combine work on multiple events and/or projects in order to obtain the credit, and the work may be performed over more than one semester.
  2. Attending at least one pro bono seminar and reading the seminar assignment. Seminars will be held each fall and spring semester and will count as five (5) hours towards the pro bono credit hour.

The Pro Bono Credit Hour is awarded in the semester in which the student enrolls for the hour, as long as the requirements have been met by the end of the semester. Students are responsible for keeping up with the details of their pro bono work and must submit a Certification statement, as discussed below, when their pro bono requirements have been met. 

Organization/Project Approval.  The Partners tab above has a list of approved organizations. For any other organization or project, students must submit a written request to PBI Director Kris Simpson (klsimpso@olemiss.edu) for advance approval. The request should describe the organization and the work the student will be doing for the organization.

Enrollment.  Steps to enroll for the Pro Bono Hour:

  1. Determine in which semester you want the credit applied.
  2. Make sure you have attended, or will be able to attend, a pro bono seminar and read the accompanying assignment by the end of the semester.
  3. Make sure you have completed, or will be able to complete, the forty (40) hours of pro bono work by the end of the semester.
  4. See Registrar Eddie Upton (ejupton@olemiss.edu) and get enrolled for the pro bono hour before or within the first two weeks of the semester in which you are seeking the credit.

Certification. When the student’s pro bono requirements have been met, the student should submit a written statement certifying that he/she provided a minimum of forty hours of volunteer service. The statement should include:

  1. The dates worked
  2. The number of hours worked on each date
  3. The organization, event, or project worked on, including a brief description of the work performed
  4. The name and contact information for the student’s immediate supervisor(s) at each event

The statement must also include a certification that the student attended a pro bono seminar (including the date of attendance) and read the seminar assignment. The certification should be emailed to PBI Director Kris Simpson (klsimpso@olemiss.edu) and Registrar Eddie Upton (ejupton@olemiss.edu).

Projects

Pro bono students education high school students about tenants’ rights

Pro bono students educate high school students about tenants’ rights

 

Northeast Mississippi Pro Se Legal Clinics. The First Chancery District hosts pro se legal clinics in each of its chancery courts throughout the year. Volunteer students interview and assist pro se litigants under the supervision of local attorneys.

Washington County Pro Se Days. Each quarter, students spend the day at the Greenville courthouse in the Mississippi Delta, assisting pro se litigants with completing their pleadings and presenting their case to the court.

Lawyers in the Parish Hall. Once or twice per semester, students travel to the Saints’ Brew ministry at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo to assist local attorneys with research and document drafting on legal issues facing the Saints’ Brew clients.

Third Chancery District Pro Bono Project. Students work directly with local attorneys to assist pro se litigants in uncontested matters. Students will gather information and draft documents under the attorney’s supervision. Travel is not required.

Expungement clinic. The Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, the Magnolia Bar, the Mississippi Women Lawyers Association, the Black Law Students’ Association, and PBI partner to assist North Mississippi residents with expunging criminal records. Students earn pro bono credit by conducting intake of prospective clients and/or assisting attorneys with preparing expungement petitions and orders for filing in state courts.

NMRLS Willdays. Students assist North Mississippi Rural Legal Services at its willdays by serving as witnesses and doing intakes for wills, powers of attorney, and advanced healthcare directives.

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 a JAG attorney.

Prison Education Outreach. Students presented educational legal information on paternity, custody, child support, and parental rights to a group of inmates at the Marshall County Correctional Facility. The inmates asked lots of questions and showed a great interest in learning more about family law and other areas of the law, such as copyrights, wills, and powers of attorney. PBI plans to continue this outreach and to expand on the topics presented.


Past Projects

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.

Other

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.

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.

The Family Law Clinics. The PBI sponsored a Family Law Clinic at the law school, assisting North Mississippi residents with divorce, custody, support, adoption, name change, and emancipations.

 

Calendar

2018 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 event(s) for which you are volunteering, as well as your phone number and whether you are a 1L, 2L, or 3L.  You will be notified by email if slots are available for the event. Closer to the event date, you will receive another email reminding you about the event and providing details on the event, including transportation if applicable.  All events listed below count toward the Pro Bono Credit Hour. See the Law School web site (Clinical Programs/Pro Bono Initiative/Students) for requirements and enrollment information.

 

  • THIRD CHANCERY DISTRICT PRO BONO PROJECT

Semester-Long Opportunity – NO TRAVEL REQUIRED

Students are needed to assist with the Third Chancery District Pro Bono Project. Students will work directly with attorneys in the Third Chancery District to assist low-income individuals with uncontested matters. Students will collect information from clients and draft legal documents under the remote supervision of attorneys.

 

  • MONROE COUNTY PRO SE LEGAL CLINIC: ABERDEEN, MS

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 (3:00 pm – 6:00 pm; be at the courthouse by 2:45)
Travel to Aberdeen to work with pro se litigants at the courthouse.  Judge Mask currently has 45 litigants signed up to receive assistance.  Students are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice and limited assistance on pro se family law matters.

*This clinic is not co-sponsored by PBI, so travel is not reimbursed.

 

  • LAWYERS IN THE PARISH HALL: TUPELO, MS

Friday, September 7, 2018 (leave the school at 6:00 am; return around 11:00 am)

Join us for the quarterly legal clinic at the All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Tupelo to provide advice and limited assistance to individuals with a variety of legal issues through attorney/law student teams. Transportation will be provided(up to 8 students)

 

  • PRENTISS COUNTY PRO SE LEGAL CLINIC: BOONEVILLE, MS
    Thursday, September 13, 2018 
    (3:00 pm – 6:00 pm; be at the courthouse by 2:45)
    Travel to Booneville to work with pro se litigants at the courthouse.  Students are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice and limited assistance on pro se family law matters.

*This clinic is not co-sponsored by PBI, so travel is not reimbursed.

 

  • WASHINGTON COUNTY PRO SE DAY: GREENVILLE, MS
    Wednesday, September 19, 2018
    (leave the school at 6:45 am; return around 4:00 pm)
    Travel to the Mississippi Delta to work with pro se litigants at the courthouse.  The chancellor hears pro se cases on this day and refers litigants with insufficient pleadings to attorney/student teams to have the pleadings redrafted on site and presented to the court.  This event satisfies one-fourth of the Pro Bono Credit Hour requirement. Transportation will be provided(up to 8 students)

*This will be Chancellor Wilson’s last pro se clinic before she retires.

 

  • PONTOTOC COUNTY PRO SE LEGAL CLINIC: PONTOTOC, MS
    Tuesday, September 25, 2018 (leave the school at 3:15 pm; return around 7:30 pm)
    Travel to Pontotoc to work with pro se litigants at the courthouse.  Students are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice and limited assistance on pro se family law matters.  Transportation will be provided.

 

  • 18th CHANCERY DISTRICT PRO SE LEGAL CLINIC: OXFORD, MS
    Thursday, November 1, 2018 (3:00 pm – 6:00 pm; be at the courthouse by 2:45)
    Come to the Lafayette County Chancery Court Building to work with pro se litigants.  Students are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice and limited assistance on pro se family law matters.

 

  • LEE COUNTY PRO SE LEGAL CLINIC: TUPELO, MS
    Tuesday, November 6, 2018 (3:00 pm – 7:00 pm; be at the courthouse by 2:45)
    Travel to Tupelo to work with pro se litigants at the courthouse.  Students are paired with volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice and limited assistance on pro se family law matters.  Transportation will be provided.

 

  • LAWYERS IN THE PARISH HALL: TUPELO, MS

Friday, November 9, 2018 (leave the school at 6:00 am; return around 11:00 am)

Join us for the quarterly legal clinic at the All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Tupelo to provide advice and limited assistance to individuals with a variety of legal issues through attorney/law student teams. Transportation will be provided(up to 8 students)

Partners

pbi-partners

MISSISSIPPI ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION – The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission was established by the Mississippi Supreme Court to provide overarching, unifying support to Mississippi’s civil legal services delivery system. Law students are needed to conduct remote research projects on a variety of topics related to the increasing access to civil justice in Mississippi.  In the past, students have conducted research on cy pres awards, self-help centers and kiosks, fundraising opportunities for legal aid, and how other states have developed manuals and  guides for self-represented litigants and court clerks.  For more information, contact Tiffany Graves, Executive Director, at tgraves@msbar.org or 601-960-9581.

MISSISSIPPI VOLUNTEER LAWYERS PROJECT (“MVLP”) – MVLP provides legal services for domestic matters involving low-income and limited means clients, through direct legal assistance and legal clinics. If you are interested in working with MVLP, contact Gayla Carpenter-Sanders at gsanders@mvlp.net.

MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR JUSTICE – With offices in Jackson, Biloxi, and Indianola, the Center seeks systemic solutions that promote educational opportunity, protect the rights of consumers, secure access to healthcare, ensure equity in disaster recovery and put affordable housing within the reach of all Mississippians. Students can volunteer with MCJ in the following areas:

  • Working with students and parents in school discipline hearings – contact Debra Giles (Indianola office) at dgiles@mscenterforjustice.org
  • Assisting with fair housing complaints – contact John Jopling (Biloxi office) atjjopling@mscenterforjustice.org
  • Assisting with heir property work (primarily drafting heirship affidavits and family land trusts) or general research projects – contact Beth Orlansky (Jackson office) at borlansky@mscenterforjustice.org
  • Training as a navigator to assist people in justice court proceedings – contact Charles Lee (Jackson office) at clee@mscenterforjustice.org

NORTH MISSISSIPPI RURAL LEGAL SERVICES (“NMRLS”) – NMRLS provides free civil legal services for low-income persons and seniors in the northern half of Mississippi. NMRLS’s Volunteer Law Project matches student volunteers with areas of client need based on the volunteer’s interests, skills, and availability. The majority of NMRLS’s work is in the areas of family law, consumer protection including tax litigation, wills and estates, and housing. For more information, contact the volunteer coordinator at 662-234-2918.

MISSISSIPPI LEGAL SERVICES – Mississippi Legal Services provides free civil legal services for low-income persons and seniors in the southern half of Mississippi. Opportunities for volunteers include assisting attorneys with Victims of Crime Act representation (research and education and outreach activities), foreclosure defense (research and education and outreach activities), and Title III representation on elderly (education and outreach activities). If you are interested, contact Sam Buchanan at shbuchanan@mslegalservices.org.

THE NORTHCUTT LEGAL CLINIC – The Northcutt Legal Clinic is a subsidiary of the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence, Inc., which is a women’s shelter for South Mississippi. The Northcutt Legal Clinic is a traditional law office that handles legal matters of a non-criminal nature for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking. Students can volunteer at the Northcutt Legal Clinic in the summers for pro bono hours. Volunteer opportunities include shadowing the clinic attorney, preparing pleadings, interviewing clients, setting cases, drafting correspondence, and observing court hearings.  If you are interested, contact Harry Yoste, Jr. at 228-864-7144.

FAMILY EQUALITY COUNCIL – This organization’s mission is “to advance legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change.” Pro bono opportunities vary based on the projects the organization is working on at the time, but past opportunities have included conducting research into state law as it impacts LGBTQ families, developing overviews of one area of law (e.g. surrogacy or second-parent adoption) across the 50 states plus DC, and drafting position papers on a topic of current particular interest. If you are interested, contact Shelbi Day at sday@familyequality.org.

ATLANTA VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOUNDATION (“AVLF”) – *This opportunity requires a commitment of at least 1.5 days per week for an entire semester (including summer). AVLF offers a pro bono internship in which students will be trained to advocate for and assist survivors of domestic violence who are seeking Temporary Protective Orders (TPO). Students will work directly with survivors and will assist them in drafting their petitions, conduct safety planning, assess their social service and other civil legal needs, and accompany them through the ex parte TPO process, including when the survivor presents his/her case to a magistrate judge. After the respondent is personally served, students who are certified under Georgia’s Student Practice Rule may represent clients in their subsequent evidentiary hearings under the supervision of an AVLF staff attorney. Students may also represent clients in follow-up legal proceedings related to a survivor’s 12-Month Protective Order, such as contempt and modification hearings, and will be responsible for referring clients to AVLF’s other programs or other legal organizations to help address clients’ additional civil legal needs. First, second, and third-year law students are eligible to apply.