Bobby Wood was married with a baby in his final year of law school at the University of Mississippi when then law professor Robert Khayat happened to stop by the store where he worked one Saturday.
“He called me in on Monday morning to ask about me working,” said Wood of Corinth, Mississippi. “My wife and I were both working full time then to make ends meet. Dr. Khayat asked me how much financial aid I would need to not work my final semester.”
Wood received $500, thanks to the support of Khayat and his fellow law school faculty members and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in 1975. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts in 1972 at Ole Miss.
“Our school faculty had a great interest in students, and Bobby is an example of how we were able to help,” said Khayat, now UM chancellor emeritus. “We were always grateful when we had the chance to do the right thing for people.”
The support allowed Wood to increase his grade point average that final semester, setting him on a path toward a successful law career in the firm he opened in his hometown, Wood & Carlton Attorneys at Law.
“I had been getting maybe four hours of sleep at night after being in school then working full time, but that last semester was wonderful,” Wood said. “I was able to participate more and be awake for class.”
To pay tribute to the support he received as a law student, in 2016, Wood established the Bobby Wood Clinical Programs Student Award Fund, awarding $500 each to full-time students who excel in the field work component of a clinical course. Recently, Wood decided to increase his support with a $60,000 gift to the Law School Clinical Programs Fund — a gift he hopes will enrich the experiential education of current and future UM law students.
“Law students know more theory, but the practicality is what the Clinical Programs provides for them,” Wood said. “The programs are much needed and make all the difference in the world.”
UM’s Clinical Programs teach essential practice skills and professional responsibility through a reflective clinical practice that provides high-quality representation to underserved clients. Clinics include the George C. Cochran Innocence Project, Child Advocacy Clinic, Housing Clinic and Transactional Law.
“Our clinics are designed to help Ole Miss law students gain real-world experience, understand ethical obligations and develop a commitment to furthering broad access to the legal system,” said Tucker Carrington, UM associate dean for clinical programs and director of the Innocence Project.
“Support like Bobby’s is vital to continuing the mission of our clinics, and I am confident that this financial support will be transformative for our students and positively impact future clients for years to come.”
Austin Miller, a third-year student from Frisco, Texas, chose to attend the UM School of Law to participate in the Clinical Programs, which were instrumental in his decision to work in public interest law.
“It’s been an incredible and invaluable experience,” said Miller, who served at the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and with the Pro-Bono Initiative. “Sitting down and doing the work through the programs taught me more than my two years of classroom work leading up to it.
“It means so much to know that my fellow students and I are going to be prepared when we leave law school to know the initial steps to take to continue helping others,” he continued, “Being able to meet with clients and know that I can help get huge issues in their lives taken care of has been amazing.
“I’ve learned that civil rights work is difficult, but it’s where I want to be.”
Wood hopes others will support the Clinical Programs, especially after hearing about Miller’s experience there.
“People aren’t able to represent themselves as much now since there’s been a shift to written communications, which is why the Clinical Programs are vital,” Wood said.
“Students with Clinical Programs experience are better prepared to serve the public and to serve them confidently. It’s wonderful to see them have a heart and compassion for their clients.”
The Bobby Wood Clinical Programs Student Award Fund is open to support from businesses and individuals. Gifts can be made to by sending a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the fund’s name noted on the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or by giving online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
To support the UM Law School Clinical Programs Fund click here.
For more information on how to support the UM School of Law, contact Suzette Matthews, executive director for development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-1122.
By Mary Stanton Knight/UM Development