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.
How to volunteer:
To volunteer for a PBI event, email 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 Debbie 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 Debbie Bell (email@example.com) and Eddie Upton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- 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.
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.
Lee County Pro Se Days. In 2014, PBI added a quarterly pro se day in Lee County. Volunteer students interview and assist pro se litigants under the supervision of Lee County attorneys in a clinic housed at 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.
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.
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.
2017 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.
For a list of events this year, visit the PBI Facebook page.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
- Assisting with fair housing complaints – contact John Jopling (Biloxi office) firstname.lastname@example.org
- Assisting with heir property work (primarily drafting heirship affidavits and family land trusts) or general research projects – contact Beth Orlansky (Jackson office) at email@example.com
- Training as a navigator to assist people in justice court proceedings – contact Charles Lee (Jackson office) at firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.