What is your regular practice area: Where do you work? What do you love most about your job?
I am the Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at UNC School of Law. I do some general students affairs work but spend most of my time coordinating and supervising the Pro Bono Program at Carolina Law. I love being able to help students find their passions through pro bono work while also providing under-resourced legal services providers and government agencies with some extra help. Prior to working at UNC School of Law, I practiced criminal law, and I like to find pro bono opportunities that allow me to exercise my criminal defense attorney muscles and use my experience to help others.
What is your most recent pro bono experience?
I am currently working both on the NC Pro Bono Resource Center’s Driver’s License Restoration Project and the Juvenile Parole Project. With the Driver’s License Restoration Project, I’m excited to be a part of the team writing monthly advice letters to people who have requested information on the status of their licenses. I’m proud of the work that Carolina Law students have done with this project, and it is a joy to be able to work on the same project. It is important to me to model the actions and behavior that I encourage from students, and it is so satisfying to be a part of an impactful mass relief effort like driver’s license restoration.
Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
In addition to the Driver’s License Restoration Project, I am also currently a volunteer attorney with the Juvenile Parole Project, representing people on parole review who were convicted of serious crimes as juveniles. This project is a partnership between Carolina Law and NC Prisoner Legal Services created in 2018, and I have enjoyed being a part of this effort to provide representation for people who would not otherwise have counsel. Through this project, we have had multiple clients get contracts for the promise of release, and it is an amazing feeling to know that we played a role in getting someone a second chance at life.
What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
There are plenty of pro bono opportunities available with built-in training and mentorship. If you’re reluctant or nervous, one of these projects is a great way to get your foot in the door. (And, once you’ve figured it out, you can be a mentor for others!)
Taking a new pro bono project can sometimes be a good way to practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Figuring something out that you have never done before is a valuable skill in the practice of law. When I was in criminal defense practice, I did pro bono work with advanced directives and landlord-tenant law. I was not an expert in either of these areas, but I attended trainings and asked lots of questions. It was a nice break from my day-to-day practice, and it was rewarding to help people and do something completely different. Many pro bono projects are created not for experts in those fields but for people willing to learn, and I’d encourage anyone to take a chance.