Drake law students work pro bono for Hurricane Katrina survivors
Sam Bolton, Caroline Bettis, Elizabeth Crispin, Ryan Hanlon, Max Traxinger, Erin Lain and Brad Hopkins
A group of Drake University Law School students used spring break to take advantage of an invaluable opportunity to practice their skills for real clients with real need by providing free legal services to low-income clients in New Orleans
. Six first-year students volunteered for the Pro Bono Project, an organization that connects legal professionals who will work pro bono with clients who need legal advice and representation.
"The New Orleans Volunteer Trip was a huge success," said Erin Lain, Drake Law School assistant director of admission. "Through this trip the students were able to experience the unique culture of New Orleans and help in rebuilding the city after one of the most devastating disasters to affect our country."
Drake students who participated in the trip were Sam Bolton, Caroline Bettis, Elizabeth Crispin, Ryan Hanlon, Mike Traxinger and Brad Hopkins. The group joined fellow law students from Howard University Law School and Rodger Williams University School of Law, who also were volunteering for the project.
Lain, who graduated from Drake Law School in 2008, supervised the students' legal work at the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, where they created a universal questionnaire form for divorces, a brochure about elder abuse and an updated compendium of legal resources for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
They also were given responsibilities to work one-on-one with clients, gathering housing, financial and legal information from them and updating the clients' files.
Students volunteered at a drug rehabilitation center, where they interviewed the rehabilitants and gathered information for a variety of legal issues. Client needs included filing for divorce, declaring bankruptcy and advice on pending litigation. Once the forms were completed, students also sat in on meetings between the rehabilitants and attorneys.
"This was perhaps the most eye opening experience of the trip for the students," Lain said. "The students saw how much they could help just by helping fill out forms with the rehabilitants, some of which whom illiterate. It was very obvious how helping to alleviate some of these legal issues could really help in the recovery process."
Students were then assigned divorce files, which required them to contact their clients, fill out the divorce pleadings and have the clients come into the office to sign them.
In addition to providing free legal services, the Drake group raised almost $500 to donate to the Pro Bono Project by hosting an art raffle and Mardi Gras party and collecting donations from local attorneys.
"The New Orleans Spring Break Volunteer trip is a great opportunity for students to put into practice the Drake Law School Mission Statement by promoting justice, serving as leaders and responding to the call of public service," Lain said.