Pro Bono Initiative Projects

DeSoto County Pro Se Days. Each semester, students can volunteer at a hybrid clinic that (1) provides legal advice and limited assistance to pro se litigants seeking to commence a family law matter, and (2) redrafts documents for litigants who are on that day’s docket but might have insufficient pleadings.

First Chancery District Pro Se Legal Clinics. Chancellor Mask hosts pro se legal clinics in each of the eight chancery courts (twice in Lee County) throughout the year. Volunteer students work with local attorneys to provide advice and limited assistance to pro se litigants with family law matters.

Eighteenth Chancery District Pro Se Legal Clinics. The Eighteenth Chancery District hosts pro se legal clinics in Oxford once per semester. Volunteer students team up with local attorneys to provide advice and limited assistance to pro se litigants with uncontested family law matters.

Expungement clinics. Throughout the year, PBI students assist at several expungement clinics sponsored by various organizations in north Mississippi. Students conduct intake on prospective clients and/or assist 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.

Past Projects

Past Clinics

LGBT Documents Clinic. OUTLAW and PBI partnered 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.

Third Chancery District Pro Bono Project. Students teamed with local attorneys, remotely, to assist pro se litigants in uncontested matters. Students gathered information from the litigant and drafted documents under the attorney’s supervision.

Wills clinic. PBI supported 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.

Washington County Pro Se Days. Each quarter, students spend the day at the Greenville courthouse in the Mississippi Delta for Pro Se Day. Chancellor Richard hears pro se cases and refers litigants whose pleadings are insufficient to attorney/student teams to redraft on-site and present to the Court.

Lawyers in the Parish Hall. Twice per semester, students travel to the Saints’ Brew ministry at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Tupelo to assist pro se litigants with a variety of legal issues under the supervision of local attorneys.

Veterans Legal Advice Clinic. Twice per year in Oxford, students work with local attorneys to assist veterans with issues of family law, housing, consumer protection, wills and powers of attorney, and VA disability benefits.

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

Prison Education Outreach. Students present educational information on various topics of law to inmates at the Marshall County Correctional Facility. To date, there have been presentations on paternity, custody, child support, wills and powers of attorney, and copyrights. The inmates asked lots of questions and showed a great interest in learning more about other areas of the law.

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.

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.