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
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.