University of South Carolina School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Pamela D Robinson
Director Pro Bono Program
P: (803) 777-3405
Formal Voluntary Program Characterized by a Referral System with Coordinator
Description of Programs
The University of South Carolina Pro Bono Program, established in 1989, is the first voluntary program in a US law school. The goals are to: provide opportunities for skills enhancement and career development; involve law students in the volunteer programs of the community; and foster the ethic of professional commitment to those who are unrepresented.
A full time Director manages the Program with assistance from members of the Student Advisory Board. Duties of the board members include: recruiting fellow students, serving as a sounding board, bringing new ideas and projects to the attention of the Director, serving as a representative of the Pro Bono Program on various law school and Bar committees, and being spokespeople for the Program.
The Program works closely with the South Carolina Bar, the SC Access to Justice Commission, several state agencies and local non-profits. A special effort is made to have available short-term projects linking students to pro bono attorneys in all areas of the state but especially the rural counties. http://www.law.sc.edu/probono/
Students are asked to review an Ethics and Professionalism memo upon enrolling in a volunteer project. In addition they are provided with the tools to collect and maintain data on their pro bono involvement through the M.Y. Pro Bono (Managing Your Pro Bono) portal.
At the start of each academic year the Pro Bono Program Board kicks off the semester with a day long leadership workshop This time is used for strategic planning, setting up a year-long calendar, and establishing roles for individual Board members.
Since 2008, the Pro Bono has been the coordinator of the 'Incoming Students Community Service Project" for all new and transfer students. This event places the entire new class, their peer mentors and faculty members at a local site for an afternoon of community service. The Pro Bono Board members serve as reporters for this event, interviewing and photographing all the participants while they work.
Recently the Pro Bono Alumni Advisory Council was established to assist with messaging, project development and increased coordination with alumni.
Location of Programs
Stand-Alone Program. http://www.law.sc.edu/probono/
The Program is funded by the Law School with annual budget of approximately $100,000
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
CAROLINA CLERKS: Pro Bono Clerks for Pro Bono Lawyers Carolina Clerks matches volunteer law students with SC lawyers who have agreed to pro bono client representation. Students will perform traditional law clerking tasks including research and drafting. Time requirement is on a case by case basis. Wide variety of cases. Foreign language skills may be needed.
Training: On the job
COMMISSION ON LAWYER CONDUCT: Office of Disciplinary Counsel This office is charged by the SC Supreme Court to investigate and prosecute allegations of misconduct of lawyers in SC. Volunteers will assist the office on a range of projects including research and file organization. Students must be willing to be flexible in their duties yet provide assistance on a regular basis. Knowledge and adherence to confidentiality is extremely important.
Training: On the job
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LEGAL ADVOCATES Volunteers will assist with providing Orders of Protection to victims of domestic violence. Working with Sexual Trauma Services and Sistercare atttorneys volunteers will help guide the victims through the legal process. This is a fairly new project and continues to evolve and is dependent on access to supervisory attorneys.
Training: Criminal record check, training and in-service required.
FREE MEDICAL CLINIC Volunteers will assist with administrative duties such as interviewing new patients, gathering financial information, preparing new files, and converting patient charts to a new system. Spanish translators are also needed. If you are a medical doctor, nurse or pharmacist there are opportunities to fit those skills. In the future there will be special projects with this organizations that provides health care to low-income clients with no medical insurance.
Training: 1 hour orientation and application; volunteers are asked to select a regular time and date to serve.
FRIDAY BLITZ The Friday Blitz is held once a month with a goal of responding to questions posted online by the public. Lsw students will work directly with a lawyer in determining the issues to be addressed, asking what is the possible answer and drafting a response. This is all done in a group setting often with a designated law firm taking the lead. Available to 1L’s in the Spring
Training: On the job, curiosity and problem solving skills recommended.
HARVEST HOPE FOOD BANK Volunteer law students may assist in two manners; one is in a variety of positions with the semi- annual food drives and another can be as a regular volunteer at the Food Bank. Regular volunteers may explore a range of tasks from sorting food or packing bags to assisting with data entry or helping Hispanic clients.
Training: On the job.
HELP-Homeless Legal Clinic Collaboration between a number of community organizations and the Richland County Bar Association has resulted in this effort to assist the homeless population in the Greater Columbia area. Legal clinics will be held twice a month. Law student volunteers may serve in several positions: law clerk for the on-site volunteer attorneys and translators on an as needed basis. An online sign up site allows for flexible connecting to lawyers and for receipt of reminders.
Training: Law clerks will be on-site for two hours and may have follow up work.
LAWYERS 4 VETS Held on the 3rd Thursday of each month this clinic is a collaboration between the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center and the VA. The Clinic offers services to screened veterans with legal issues such as expungements. wills, child support. NO VA Benefits services provided. Students will assist with intake and processing.
Training: Observation and on the job
LEXINGTON COUNTY JUVENILE ARBITRATION PROGRAM Permits the first time offender to purge their record from the system by completing a set of requirements set forth by a volunteer arbitrator. Law Students will serve as arbitrators conducting hearings for juveniles and will monitor their progress in meeting the requirements set forth in the arbitration. Usually assigned one case at a time requiring approximately a total of 8 hours. Fall Training ONLY- limited space
Training: 18 hours; application; criminal record check
MY WILL PROJECT This collaborative effort of the SC Bar, the Central Midlands Area on Aging and the Pro Bono Program will provide free simple wills to local senior citizens. At once a month clinics law students may serve as witnesses and will assist attorneys with the gathering of information and the actual preparation and execution of wills.
Training: Review of will template and interview forms will be required but otherwise on the job training.
PROJECT AYUDA: Law Students Helping the Hispanic Community Volunteers assist the Hispanic community by providing information about legal and non-legal issues, connecting with attorneys, and locating resources where Spanish is spoken. Volunteers also translate a limited number of documents. Many volunteer students use this opportunity to practice their Spanish; although fluency is not a requirement.
Training: Research skills needed
PUBLIC DEFENDERS’ OFFICES Law students provide research, monitor court proceedings and assist in case preparation with attorneys who represent SC’s indigent population in criminal matters. Volunteering may take place in the Richland or Lexington County offices.
Training: Research skills omust have completed one year of Law School
RICHLAND COUNTY CASA- Court Appointed Special Advocates Volunteers are appointed to appear in Family Court on behalf of children in abuse and neglect cases. Working with the Richland County CASA Project, students act as unbiased representatives for the child; conduct confidential investigations; assist in preparing a plan of action; with the aid of the child’s attorney see that all pertinent information is heard by the court; help coordinate suitable social services and ensure educational continuity.
Training: 15 hours of initial training, ongoing in-service, observation of a Family Court hearing; criminal record check
SC ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION The mission of the SC Access to Justice Commission is to expand access to civil legal representation for South Carolinians with low or moderate means. Law student volunteers will assist with research, intake and on special projects. The Rural Justice Project is a public education outreach project where law students develop and present legal information to the public.
Training: Research skills; on the job training
SC APPLESEED LEGAL JUSTICE CENTER Assistance in the research and preparation of material for attorney training and case litigation. Issues are those affecting the indigent population and range from bankruptcy, adoption, divorce, Social Security, Medicaid, landlord-tenant, consumer debt, to housing. Research on specific cases may also be available with local Legal Services offices.
Training: Research skills needed.
SC BAR- PRO BONO PROGRAM Students will be involved in research on specific pro bono cases as they are assigned directly to a pro bono attorney. Research requests may also result from questions posed by Committees or Sections. Skilled speakers and readers of a foreign language may also volunteer to be part of a language bank. This bank is available to attorneys working on pro bono cases.
Training: Research skills needed. Foreign language option
SC BAR- PRO BONO PROGRAM- Prisioner Correspondence Team Students will be involved in research and drafting responses to pisoner correspondence received by the SC Bar. Student must have good writing skills and be willing to learn about legal resources.Occassional request will be recieved in Spanish
Training: On the Job. Research and ability skills needed. Foreign language option
SC DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS Volunteers will conduct research and assist the Departments staff attorneys on emerging issues that affect SC’s consumer population. These issues include identity theft, mortgage fraud, debt collection, vehicle sales & service, credit problems. Another service opportunity includes interviewing consumers who have requested assistance from the Department.
Training: On the job
SC OFFICE OF INDIGENT DEFENSE- APPELLATE DIVISION The Appellate Division represents indigent criminal defendants who seek appellate review of their convictions from the Court of General Sessions. Student activities include research, field interviewing and legal drafting. This Office provides a unique opportunity to obtain hands on experience for those students interested in criminal law or post conviction relief.
Training: Individual, supervision by SC attorney
S.C. PROBATE COURT SPECIAL VISITORS Trained volunteers working under the direction of the local Probate Judge will interview and visit with guardians and wards. They will make detailed reports and recommendations so the Court can make more informed decisions. Volunteers work in teams of two on most cases. This is a collaborative project with the Richland County Probate Court.
Training:Application and criminal record check; 10 hours of training and observation of a guardianship hearing
SC VOLUNTEER LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS Law students will screen online applicants who have arts related issues and refer them to either the Non Profit Law Clinic or the SC Bar Pro Bono Program for further assistance. In addition students will be able to conduct research on a wide variety of arts related legal issues, prepare answers to FAQ and assist with a new online arts and the law listserv
Training: on the job.
SC VULNERABLE ADULT GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM Volunteers are appointed to appear in Family Court on behalf of adults in abuse and neglect and exploitation cases. Working with the SC Vulnerable Adult GAL Program students act as unbiased advocates. They conduct confidential investigations; interview parties, consider the wishes of the adult, write a report for the court and attend hearings.
Training: 10 hours of initial trainingn(6 in person/4 online), observation of two Family Court hearing
TEAM ADVOCACY Team Advocacy is a project of Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (P& A) Trained volunteers, working with staff from P & A, conduct unannounced inspections of SC community residential care facilities. During these inspections volunteers will interview residents seeking information about care, possible abuse and neglect or financial exploitation and available services. The Team report is filed with the appropriate authorities for follow up action. Volunteers can assist anywhere in SC.
Training: individual basis; application
VOTO LATINO and U VISA PROJECT The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is for victims of certain violent crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity Under the direction of a local immigration attorney the U Visa Project team members will interview and assist the client in the completion of the U Visa application. Of special focus will be the affidavit of the victim as this is the heart of their application for relief. Each team will need at least one member able to speak Spanish. Attention to detail and comprehensive interviewing is necessary. Volunteers with Voto Latino will start by working on voter registration efforts. Additional services to the Latino community are possible.
Training: 4 hours of classroom instruction; Spanish speaking not required
VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service to help older, disabled, non-English speaking or low income taxpayers who need assistance and for whom professional tax preparation may be out of reach. Volunteers prepare basic tax returns using online software. A tax coordinator is available to handle difficult questions or returns. Law School tax courses are NOT requiredFor those not ready to assist with tax preparation there is a less demanding but equally imporant role with Intake and Interview
Training: Self-study course and online exam
OTHER PROJECTS This list of projects is ever evolving. For up-to-date information contact the Director, any Board member or check on the Pro Bono Program homepage, the TWEN Pro Bono Opportunities and News link or the 386* View blog
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
At the annual Law School Awards luncheon for academic and service awards to students and faculty, 10 Outstanding Student Pro Bono Awards are presented and 1 Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year . In addition the Pro Bono Program presents an award to the "Outstanding Student Organization" for their demonstrated commitment to the goals of the Pro Bono Program.
Many of the general student awards have a pro bono factor in their criteria.
Individual letters of recognition sent to parents or significant persons upon graduation; external and internal law school and University publications; personal notes of thanks sent during the year upon completion of significant events or activity.
The Pro Bono Program promotes and conducts a number of community service projects. Each semester the Pro Bono Program sponsors a monthly community service called "Good Deed Friday". These events are limited in the number of volunteers but draw from all classes.
Other ongoing and episodic projects include: tutoring at a local elementary school, twice annual food drives, collection of personal care products for local shelters, Halloween Carnival for local area at risk children, and Thanksgiving Dinner at a transitional housing complex for homeless families.
Since 2008 the Pro Bono Program has coordinated the “Incoming Law Student Community Service Project”. Held at the end of orientation, the entire incoming class, peer mentors, and faculty are sent to over 14 locations to perform general community service tasks as well as to learn about the services provided by that organization.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Pamela D Robinson
Director of Pro Bono Program
P: (803) 777-3405
Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Career Services
P: (803) 777-8479
Public Interest Centers
Public Interest Clinics
Carolina Health Advocacy Medicolegal Partnership (CHAMPS) Clinic
The CHAMPS Clinic is a collaboration of the School of Law, the USC School of Medicine, Palmetto Health, Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, and South Carolina Legal Services. It will provide students with the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary learning and community engagement in the context of live-client legal cases. More specifically, students will take legal cases on behalf of low income families referred from Palmetto Health and Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group. These cases will address the social-determinants of clients’ health. The law students will work collaboratively on these legal cases with doctors, social workers and other health professionals. In addition to case work, the course will have a seminar component during which students will learn the doctrine, theory, lawyering skills, and policy relevant to their case work. The seminar will also provide the students opportunities to lead discussions about case-related issues and solicit feedback from colleagues on those issues.
Criminal Practice Clinic
The clinic will afford participating students an opportunity to gain first-hand, closely supervised training and experience in the representation of real clients and the practice of the arts/skills of litigation planning, client counseling, fact development, negotiation and courtroom advocacy. The vehicle for such training and experience is the planning, preparation and presentation of the legal defense in actual cases involving allegations of criminal conduct. All casework will be done under the supervision of a clinical professor. In addition to the cases there will be assigned readings, lectures, discussions, and demonstrations. Criminal Practice Clinic places emphasis on jury trial practice before the Municipal Court for the City of Columbia.
Domestic Violence Clinic
This course will train students to assume the role of lawyer and introduce them to domestic violence law. Through classroom discussion, simulations, assigned readings, and fieldwork, the course will cover central concepts of laws governing emergency orders of protection and affirmative domestic violence-related immigration remedies, such as U Visas, VAWA Self-Petitions, and Battered Spouse Waivers, and give students an opportunity to apply their knowledge by representing clients seeking these forms of relief. Students will have an oppoortunity to develop legal skills, including: interviewing and counseling clients; fact investigation; legal research, writing and analysis; case strategy; negotiations; and courtroom advocacy, as well as professional and life skills related to legal practice. The course will also give students an opportunity to consider the broader context of their individual cases through class discussion and community-based projects, which may include know-your-rights presentations, limited advice and assistance clinics, and policy research.
Education Rights Clinic
The clinic helps special-needs children and their families get access to equal educational opportunity, handling legal issues ranging from disability eligibility and entitlement to services, to developing adequate Individualized Education Programs and discipline matters. Law students will begin to develop a variety of legal skills including: interviewing clients, fact investigation, legal research and analysis, case strategy, negotiations, as well as participate in mediation and possibly litigation proceedings.
Juvenile Justice Clinic
The clinic will afford participating students an opportunity to gain first-hand, closely supervised training and experience in the representation of real clients and the practice of the arts/skills of litigation planning, client counseling, fact development, negotiating, and courtroom advocacy. The vehicle for such training and experience is the planning, preparation and presentation of the legal defense of juveniles in cases involving allegations of delinquent (i.e. criminal) conduct, including pre-trial issues, guilt or innocence, and disposition (i.e. sentencing) advocacy. All casework will be done under the supervision of a clinical professor.
Nonprofit Organizations Clinic
This clinic provides legal assistance to nonprofit organizations of all types addressing the various needs of the community. Because many of these organizations lack the financial resources to retain private legal counsel, students provide legal assistance in transactional matters that include incorporation, preparation of by-laws, preparation and filing of 501(c)(3) applications, contract review and negotiation, real estate, intellectual property and land use issues. Students may attend board meetings, provide legal assistance to start up organizations or organizations that are merging, converting or spinning off new ventures. The nature of the clinic allows for experience touching many different legal disciplines and helps provide for the stabilization of these organizations so that they can better serve the community.
Sustainable Development Clinic
Through this clinic, students will provide transactional and advisory legal services to entities whose activities focus on sustainable development, and who would not otherwise be able to hire counsel. These entities (potentially to include non-profit organizations, local governments, public agencies, and others) may work on ecological conservation, agriculture and food access, land use resilience, or other areas. Students will interview clients, conduct needed legal research and writing, advise clients, and provide services in a variety of legal subject areas, likely to include administrative law, environmental law, property law, land use law, and non-profit organizations law. Students may draft and review legal instruments such as conservation easements, examine property title issues, review and advise on organizational documents, and research and advise on legal tools available for resilience initiatives. Through a seminar component and case rounds in addition to hands-on work, students will gain a more sophisticated understanding of the concepts of sustainability and resilience, attorney ethics and professional rules of practice, and other issues faced by land use lawyers, including interdisciplinary matters and policy questions.
Veterans Legal Clinic
This clinic offers services to any indigent veteran facing legal issues on credit and related financial matters, housing issues, government benefits, and family law issues. Students enrolled in the clinic will work to protect the rights of veterans and their families, while learning valuable skills including client interviewing, fact investigation, working with experts, and litigation. Learn more
In House Counsel
Judicial — Federal
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
U.S. Federal District Court
U.S. Federal Magistrate Court
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
Judicial — State
Court of Appeals
Masters in Equity
Administrative Law Court
Workers’ Compensation Commission
South Carolina Senate
South Carolina House
Classes with a Public Service Component
Public Interest Journals
PI Career Support Center
The USC Law School Career Services Office provides significant support to these students including a series of workshops devoted to public interest careers, resumes, fellowships, and job-searches. Individual counseling is also offered.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
This is a partial loan forgiveness fund for USC Law graduates For a description see: http://www.law.sc.edu/loanforgiveness/
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
A $1,000 fellowship is annually distributed to a deserving, rising 3L.
Law School Funded:
Konduros Public Interest Fellows - 8 public interest minded rising 2l and 3L students are matched with SC non-profits. During their 12 week Fellowship they serve as law clerks, project development managers and research assistants.
The James L. Petigru Public Interest Summer Internship provides funding for a variety of positions, civil and criminal. The number of Internships varies and is dependent on the amount of money raised by the James L. Petigru Public Interest Society and Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity. The positions are typically located in SC but out of state options are considered.
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Funds raised by James Petigru Public Interest Law Society efforts. Fellowships ranging between $1,000-2,000 are annually distributed to rising 2L and 3L students. Typically, six are distributed per year.
The SC Bar Foundation provides funding for the SC Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellows. The number of Fellows varies from summer to summer but is typically around 4 fulltime positions. They are placed with SC civil legal service programs such as the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, SC Legal Services and the SC Centers for Fathers and Families. Each Fellow is provided initial training on professionalism, teamwork and reflection. They also set personal and professional goals for the proposed work period and project. At the conclusion of the summer the Fellows file and summary report which becomes part of the SC Bar Foundation Annual Report.
For the past few years the funding for this has been in the $15,000 range.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Public Interest Speaker Series
PILS sponsors a speaker series that brings local public interest lawyers to campus to speak to students once or twice a month. This is typically held in conjunction with other student groups such as BLSA, ACS and WIL
Student Public Interest Groups
James L. Petigru Public Interest Law Society
August 6, 2018