PEMBROKE — Six students from Wake Forest University’s Law School traded in their beach towels and sunscreen for legal pads during the school’s spring break this week.
Instead of venturing to the beach or other spring break hot spots, they volunteered part of their vacation at the Pembroke office of the Legal Aid of North Carolina, a nonprofit that offers free legal services to poor people. The spring break trip is part of the law school’s Pro Bono Project.
“It’s really a win-win,” said Caitlyn Girard, a second-year law student and co-chairperson of the project board. “We get the practical knowledge law students so badly crave, and they [Legal Aid] get some help on their heavy caseload.”
The students have worked on several projects with officials of the Lumbee tribe, who the Pembroke office works with often, which included a grant proposal seeking federal funds for the tribe.
They also advised the tribe on their on-going effort for federal recognition and recent financial conflicts by drafting ordinances and drawing up legal documents.
Girard said that some students had taken an Indian law class at Wake Forest and were really excited to put it into action.
“A lot of law school is learning case law,” Girard said. “That doesn’t always allow for practical, hands-on work, so an opportunity like this to get her feet wet is great.”
Students divided their time between the legal aid office, the tribe and giving legal clinics to veterans, seniors and other Robeson County residents.
Tuesday they made a presentation to the Lumbee Tribe’s Boys and Girls Club about the importance of education. Thursday they were at the Tribal Community Center giving senior members of the community advice of drafting a will and future planning.
“A lot of people in the community have never had an interaction with an attorney,” Girard said. “They don’t know what resources are out there.”
Candance Harke, a staff attorney at the Legal Aide office, said she hopes to continue the relationship between the Legal Aide office and the law school.
The spring break trip began last year when the group went to Miami, Fla. There is already talk of coming back to Pembroke next year, Girard said.
“It is nice to keep it local,” she said. Staying within the state allowed some of the students to make it home for part of the week.
Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at (910) 272-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.