By Jennifer Winn
A Utah Supreme Court justice challenged BYU law students Thursday to go pro bono — working for free — by participating in a new program being introduced at the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Utah Supreme Court Justice Ronald E. Nehring encouraged students to get involved with a new program the Public Interest Law Foundation is introducing to second and third year law students.
The foundation is sponsoring a pro bono partnership to pair up practicing attorneys with law students to work on one pro bono case per semester. Justice Nehring expressed to students his desire to see them embrace the chance to do pro bono work.
“The gift of legal knowledge that you are receiving in this building is one of the greatest gifts that we have,” he said. “It is only surpassed by the opportunity to use that gift for the benefit of the well being of the citizens of our community. Your personal enrichment in the study of the law will be doubled and redoubled every time you have the opportunity to bring it to bare for the benefit of somebody who needs it.”
PILF partnered with the Utah State Bar, Utah Legal Services and the BYU Law School to find pro bono cases for students to work on.
Law students will not only get practical experience in the real world of law, but the program will allow them to get mentoring from a practicing attorney. The partnership will also assist lawyers in being able to take on more pro bono cases.
“A lot of attorneys in Utah really want to support pro bono efforts, but they just don”t have time to work on the cases or the resources because they”re working for free,” said foundation board member Marin Bradshaw, a second year law student from Provo. “Having an opportunity to work with a student gives them just what they might need to support pro bono work.”
The partnership has compiled a list of Utah attorneys who have volunteered to work with a student, and students choose an attorney from the list. The Utah Bar will then place a pro bono case with each attorney-student team as quickly as possible.
“There is so much legal need out there,” said former PILF vice president, Layne Smith, a third year law student from West Valley City. “Too many people can”t afford to get the services they need to have their rights protected. If we can get students involved in pro bono work at this level, they”ll get valuable experience in the legal profession which will help them in all aspects of their careers, but more importantly, they”ll see the joy and the satisfaction that comes from legal work, and they will take that out into their careers.”
The pro bono partnership is designed to give law students practical experience in the legal profession, but, more importantly, they want students to gain a stronger desire to serve.
Justice Nehring finished his speech by challenging students to do just that; take the knowledge they are acquiring and use it to serve the community.
“As I drive into the campus of Brigham Young University, I pass the sign that says, ”Enter to Learn…Go Forth to Serve,”” he said. “I hope that all of you, when you drive by that sign, see that as something more than just a mere inspirational motto, and that you will take the opportunity to start now to stitch into the fabric of your professional lives that part of the motto, ”Go Forth to Serve.” This is your chance. Go forth!”