At Charlotte School of Law, pro bono is part of mission

At Charlotte School of Law, pro bono is part of mission

The Charlotte School of Law is the only law school in the state that requires all of its students to perform pro bono work.

Why pro bono and why does CSL support such efforts? The central mission pillar of the school is serving the underserved. Since its founding in 2006, the law school has viewed experiential education — which includes the pro bono program — as an integral part of its curriculum.

A major goal of the pro bono program is to engage the student body with law-related service projects that provide an opportunity to develop practical skills.

An equally important goal is to allow students to do good in our community. Many CSL students have articulated a desire to use their knowledge of the law to help people and to do good as their main reasons for attending law school.

Pro bono has allowed our law students to develop legal skills through experiences not found in the classroom. By working on supervised pro bono cases, CSL students have improved their legal-research abilities while developing their interviewing and advocacy skills. Our students have learned professionalism — the importance of respecting others, preparing cases on time and submitting quality work product.

Pro bono also fosters direct client interaction. Through the work, CSL students have been able to meet clients in the community unable to afford legal help.

The work gives our students a window to gain awareness of the problems of the poor in finding legal help. Pro bono opportunities have permitted CSL student interaction with indigent clients and let them see the impact of their legal work on areas such as homelessness foreclosure, domestic violence, driver’s license restoration and criminal-record expunction.

Pro bono has encouraged our students to discover new areas of practice they might not have contemplated. A law student wondering what estate-planning attorneys do might volunteer for a local project on free wills. Another student interested in immigration law might volunteer for a pro bono naturalization workshop. These experiences provide moments of discovery where a law student might find a new lifelong passion in an established legal area.

Pro bono also has allowed our students to network and meet lawyers in the community. At an early part of their legal career, law students need mentor relationships that many in the profession know can be critical for success. It also has resulted in student interaction with judges — a way to meet members of the judiciary before actual appearances in the courtroom.

In addition, our faculty and staff have embraced the school’s mission pillar of serving the underserved. Our “Team Charlotte” has performed pro bono work involving civil rights, offered legal advocacy for victims of human trafficking and submitted friend of the court briefs for many nonprofit organizations.

Rule 6.1 of North Carolina’s Rules of Professional Conduct states that all lawyers should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year. Our students have embraced this pro bono ethic as evidenced by more than 143,000 volunteer hours served in the community.

During these uncertain economic times, the need for legal services has increased as the numbers of unrepresented individuals seeking legal help has grown. Charlotte School of Law students are truly making a difference in Charlotte and beyond.

Sean Lew is a member of the Charlotte School of Law faculty and directs its pro bono program. He can be reached at

This article was originally published in the May 1, 2015 edition of the Charlotte Business Journal.


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To Boldly Go… Back Home


I have never spent a more fulfilling Spring Break. We worked full time hours, and yet the days flew by. The work was challenging, but I was excited to approach each new day wondering what new learning was headed my way. Truly, for having been just a five day experience I have learned so much.

The very first day at work, Monday, we got to choose our track. Each seemed very interesting and I wanted to do it all. In the end I chose the track that I had initially thought to. I went to the MCJ intending to work for the still suffering victims of Hurricane Katrina.

During orientation each supervisor gave a little blurb about each track. The Katrina Housing- Heir Title Track was my choice in the end. I focused more on the word “Katrina” and less on the words “Housing,” “Heir,” and “Title.”

I quickly realized I would be spending my week working through Property law and Wills & Estates matters. Property class was quite a while ago and I have not yet taken Decedent’s Estates. Talk about nerves. I spent my week refreshing my memory of all those Property terms and rules. And because of my most excellent team mates I received a crash course in DE. I doubt I’d be able to write out an essay exam but when I see the term “per stirpes” next year I won’t feel so lost.

So many subjects that I’ve touched on in law school showed up during my experience. Property. Decedent’s Estates. Civil Procedure, right away. Secured Transactions. Real Estate Transactions. Contracts.

I highly recommend that everyone sign up for the MCJ Trip or any other practical real world experience that they can. There something about knowing that your efforts are being expended on behalf of a real client that is thrilling. More than that, I believe that before this trip I sold myself short. Before this trip, I just knew that I would never even approach some of those subjects in  “real life,” because they were boring or difficult, or I didn’t think I’d do well in them. But after the week was done, I found that I could, and that I did it well and properly. I’m sure you will find out the same.


Live long and prosper.

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Still In Recovery – Final Reflection

In anticipation and preparation for my classes resuming tomorrow, I found myself thinking about the clients’ cases I was working on with the Mississippi Center for Justice. Thinking about all the work that has to be done at the center and remembering the clients’ stories, I wanted to do some more research to find the answers to the questions that were left unanswered from the week. After letting my mind go towards thinking about helping the clients at the center for about an hour, I finally had to stop myself and get back to work. That just goes to show that there is always work to be done and not enough time to do it. If only the week went by slower, if only there was more time in the day, if only there were more people to help…

Thinking back, I had a really good Spring Break. Not only did I have the chance to help serve the underserved in Biloxi, I was able to make some great connections. I am already missing Mrs. Tanya and my teammates. While Mrs. Tanya would tell us about all the clients she would be working with at the moment, I would just sit and think wow this an amazing woman who loves what she does. It was fulfilling to see how diligently she worked, even when the clients would not work to help themselves. She would still be working hard to better them because she knew there was better for them. I know I may be biased, but I think I had the best teammates!! We just had a connection and we were able to pick up off of each other whenever it was needed. We had a system going.

I believe this trip definitely created some hardworking, motivated leaders that should be looked out for in the near future. I am not one to talk a lot, but when it came time to explaining what we covered and accomplished over the week I had something to say and I couldn’t seem to get it all out. My team even selected me to be the spokesperson in thanking Mrs. Tanya and I am glad I did it because not only did she deserve a huge thank you, it helped me move closer to getting over my fears of speaking.

This past week has given me a big boost to go through the remainder of law school strong. I have a new drive now, coming from working with only a few clients and great leaders. I can only image what the future will hold and I look forward to doing more pro bono work.

P.S. I hope my work was sufficient and I hope it helped you in some way. Thank you again for allowing me to be apart of this great learning experience. Just in case you haven been told, your work and the passion you have for the people of Biloxi (and surrounding areas) is greatly appreciated. See you soon Mississippi Center for Justice.


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Post Biloxi Reflection, I can’t wait to go back!

Being home and unpacked, I have had time to reflect and think about all that I experienced this past week in Biloxi. Being surrounded by my peers who share common values and goals was so nice. Being a law student is hard; family and friends have a hard time understanding the lifestyle (or thus a lack of a lifestyle), and the time commitment and dedication it takes to make it in law school is heavy. Being on a school break but still doing school work might seem awful, but it was completely amazing. It was great to get to see a place I had never seen, to meet new people and work on projects I never thought of. This past week made me remember why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place; to help people.

MCJ has done an amazing job of setting the bar for organizations around the world who are doing pro bono work. All of the staff is committed and passionate about their work and helping people. And past this, everyone I encountered this week had nothing but good things to say about MCJ and all the work they do. When leaving the center I was sad to go, but I felt that I really learned something throughout the week, and I am anxious to do more pro bono work.

After seeing the area it seems crazy that more people don’t visit Biloxi. If more people would go vacation to the gulf coast areas that were devastated by the hurricane, the economy would come back and there would be more people there permanently. It made me very sad to see all the empty lots where houses used to stand, empty schools, office buildings and small business. What else is that the food in this small town is AMAZING! Every single place we ate was delicious and for great prices. I wish I lived close by so I could drive over for yummy food on the weekends. Biloxi definitely is not the place it once was, but I think they have the potential to come back and we a booming community filled with good people.

This whole experience was a blessing. I hope to have the opportunity to go back to Biloxi and work for the Mississippi Center for Justice one day. This was a great first experience for pro bono work and I cannot wait to see what all they accomplish.

Until next time.

– Molly Kight


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Final Reflection!

Upon looking back at my time spent at the Mississippi Center for Justice, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by a wide array of feelings. First and foremost, I feel beyond grateful that I was selected to be a part of such an eyeopening experience. It is very rare that life presents opportunities such as this one. Moreover I feel a strong sense of reassurance in my choice to attend law school and eventually pursue a career as a lawyer. This past week showed me how being a lawyer can be used in so many beneficial ways, especially serving the underserved. Furthermore, I felt empowered with confidence upon leaving the Mississippi Center for Justice. After spending a week at the center, I feel as if my confidence level in my abilities as a future lawyer grew extensively. This can be attributed to the various tasks we were responsible for handling this week that forced each of us to put our newly acquired legal knowledge to the test in a realistic setting. Applying the skills I had learned in an actual legal setting was so educational and reinforced so many aspects of our classes that had started to fade from my memory since first learning about them.

Although I learned so much over the past week there are two things that really stick out to me above the rest. First of all, I realized how important it is in life to step outside your comfort zone. Despite the nervousness that it might cause at first, in the end, there are so many benefits that result from doing so. My time spent at the Mississippi Center for Justice was definitely a step outside of my typical comfort zone. Not only because it was in Mississippi, but because I knew I would be working on legal topics that I was not familiar with. I was extremely nervous about making a mistake and even more nervous that I would simply have no knowledge of what we were covering. However, as the days went on, I realized that you just have to take each problem as they come. If I made a mistake I would discuss it with my group and we’d figure out how to fix it. If I was not knowledgable about a certain topic, I would put my researching skills to work and obtain the necessary information in order to become knowledgable.

I also learned how important it is in life to just simply listen to what others are saying. Whether it is another group member, your supervising attorney, a client, or just another member of the public, you must take the time to listen to what they are saying. It is so easy during present time to be distracted from conversation due to all the technology that now surrounds the work environment. However, this could easily result in missing out on an important detail of a client or missing a deadline required by your supervising attorney.

I will undoubtedly carry all that I have learned at the Mississippi Center for Justice with me throughout my career as a lawyer and in life in general. I could not be more appreciative for those who work at the Center for taking the time to assist us this week as we worked on our designated tracks and the projects they entailed. I am truly inspired by the work that each of them do on a daily basis and I hope to be able to say I have helped at least half the people that they have over the course of my career!

-Kaihla Rettinger

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The Fifth and Final Day!

Today was our fifth and final day at the Mississippi Center for Justice. We all came in ready to finalize our memo and make any last minute edits before submitting it to our supervising attorney. After doing so, we decided it was finally time to submit our final product. It was a great feeling knowing that we were able to meet our deadline. It was an even better feeling to see how we were able to take a simple question and transform it into a full informative memo after one week of research. On Monday, the first day, neither myself nor my group members had any knowledge on the law that our track was covering this week. However, just five days later, each of us felt like we had a solid grape on the law in many of its aspects.

After submitting our final memo to our supervising attorney, we decided it would be best to prepare for our presentation that wold take place before our final day at the center came to an end. We each selected a portion of the memo that we felt comfortable talking about in from of our fellow classmates and those who work at the Mississippi Center for Justice.

We were each excited to present our law and our findings to our audience.After spending a week researching the law, it felt goof knowing that we understood it well enough to educate others on it in an articulate manner.

After our own  presentation, we the pleasure of watching the other groups present there projects that they had worked so hard on all week. Although each track was different, you could blatantly see how much each person had learned while working on there designated project. From what I could tell, this was truly an eye opening experience for all of us. We all put our newly acquired legal knowledge to the test in a way that benefit those that truly need it!

Upon finishing our presentation, we participated in a small graduation ceremony from the program. Those who work at the Mississippi Center for Justice thanked us for our hard work and you could see how much they genuinely appreciated each one of us. The team at the Center could not have been any more kind to us and were beyond welcoming this entire week. Despite how small our question, they were willing to stop there day and assist us in any way possible. I feel truly grateful to have met them and to say that I had the privilege of working for each of them.

-Kaihla Rettinger

We eac

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Still In Recovery – Day 5

Today was the final day at the center. We had the chance of joining back together as a full group. Each group presented what they accomplished over the week and discussed some of the highlights of their journey. For this blog, I just wanted to give a short recap of what my group (Track 2) covered during the week.

After we were split into our groups on Monday, we immediately got to work and got an understanding of where the cases we would be working on stood. We covered many topics this week. We used Property, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Evidence, Decedent Estates and Secured Transactions and a lot of research training from school came in hand. I had the chance of writing my own memorandum on small estate affidavits and as a group on guardianship and conservatorship. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to finish the last memo, but as a group we finished a total of four memos and answered three emergency questions for our supervisor. I was glad to finally see some of the work that I’ve been doing for the last two years go into play.

Through out the week, my group was able to meet with a client which was eye opening because it is one thing hearing about someone’s story, but it is a completely different thing when you see the person and hear their story in their own words. On Wednesday, we had the opportunity of going the Mississippi Development Authority and meeting two great individuals. They explained to us how they were involved from the beginning. One of the things that caught my attention from one of the individuals was a statement about how Hurricane Katrina made everyone equal. There were rich, middle class and poor that was affected by the hurricane. On Thursday, we went to the courthouse and sat in on a custody case. We learned about the Albright factors for a custody case. The judge actually gave us the checklist to go through while the hearing was going on and its funny but we came out with the same decision as the judge in the end by simple going through the checklist. After the hearing, we were able to go to the vault to lookup some deeds. The deeds were used to see if our clients actually had title to the land they were trying to get their house rebuilt on. Fortunately, it worked out and the clients case was able to move on to the final steps.

I know I have been writing nothing but positive comments through out the week, but I have absolutely nothing negative to say. This week has been a great experience for me and I can’t believe I’ve learned as much as I have in just a short amount of time. I would like to thank the staff of the Mississippi Center for Justice and give a huge thanks to my supervisor for the week, Mrs. Tanya Talley-Chorba.



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