By: Jillian Steptoe
OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative was recognized by preLaw magazine as one the nation’s top 25 most innovative law school clinics.
PreLaw magazine recently released a ranking which honored law school clinics based on innovation in subject matter, structure or community served. The magazine reviewed more than 76 nominations from law schools across the nation, from which only 25 schools made the list.
The ranking for most innovative law school clinics recognized 15 clinics as the most innovative and 10 as runners-up.
“The UM Pro Bono Initiative is a unique, in-house law school pro bono program,” said Deborah Bell, professor and associate dean for clinical programs. “Students in the program work with the director to design and implement “mini-clinics” – day-long clinics offering client services in family law, wills and other basic documents, expungements and other re-entry issues.”
The Pro Bono Initiative meets the criteria for the ranking in a variety of ways. For example, UMPBI uniquely provides students an opportunity to gain real-world legal experience. Students have worked with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, the Mississippi Center for Justice, the Mississippi Bar and addressed issues of disaster relief, juvenile justice, domestic violence, incarceration for fee, and access to justice.
“Through the Pro Bono Initiative I took what I learned in the classroom and applied it to real clients under the supervision of experienced attorneys,” said Tyler Ellis, law student and UMPBI coordinator. “The PBI plucked me out of the world of hypotheticals, and placed me in a real world scenario.”
Additionally, UMPBI is beneficial to the local Oxford community by serving local residents with pro bono legal services and giving students an opportunity to volunteer.
“Students have been involved in every phase of the pro bono program, from community needs assessment to developing partnerships with other agencies, designing projects, and providing legal services to clients,” said Bell. “In a state with limited pro bono services, UMPBI has become a services provider as well as an opportunity for students to volunteer. In 2013-14 the program offered fourteen mini-clinics.”
Annually, 100-plus student volunteers assist over 500 clients. A few of the clinics offered by UMPBI include the Family Law Clinic, the Tax Clinic, and the Expungement Clinic.
“For me, it’s the best feeling to be able to provide a service that not only has life-changing benefits for our low-income clients, but it also shows our communities that their lives and well-being are important regardless of their geographic location and socioeconomic status,” said Holly Howard, third-year law student and UMPBI coordinator.
A list of all the clinics honored is published on the magazines website. The full story will appear in preLaw magazine’s winter issue.
For additional information about the Pro Bono Initiative please visit their webpage probono.olemiss.edu or https://law.olemiss.edu/academics-programs/clinics/pro-bono-initiative/.
For a full list of the ranking please visit http://www.nationaljurist.com/content/most-innovative-clinics