“Vulnerable individuals need help in the legal system, but they often cannot afford attorneys,” said 2004 grad Jennifer Mook, who practices family law in Aiken and Greenville, S.C. “I believe pro bono work is an important part of being an attorney, and I make it a point to take on cases when I can, especially if there’s a chance to right a wrong that has been done.”
This past summer, when Mook found herself in need of help on a pro bono case, a colleague suggested she contact Pamela Robinson, director of the School of Law’s Pro Bono Program. As
part of the program, Robinson coordinates Carolina Clerks, which matches volunteer law students with South Carolina lawyers who have agreed to accept a pro bono case. Students assist by performing traditional law clerking duties such as research and drafting.
“Carolina Clerks is a great resource that many attorneys either don’t think about or don’t know about,” said Mook, who worked with third-year student Kayla Porter on a case involving a father’s parental rights. “Kayla has been amazing, very professional and easy to work with, and her help enabled me to more effectively litigate my case.”
“We created the Carolina Clerks program to encourage lawyers to take on pro bono cases because they can get the help they need at no cost, allowing them to offer their services for free to a population in need,” Robinson said. “For students, the program offers the chance to gain practical experience with a bit more flexibility than a traditional clerkship, and it also can help shape their career paths.”
Working on the case led Porter to develop a passion for fathers’ rights. “Seeing firsthand a client who may be faced with the reality of losing his child has an impact on you that no textbook or class ever could,” she says. “Being a clerk helped humanize a legal issue that I had previously only considered from a theoretical perspective.”
Porter plans to apply for an ABA grant to help disseminate and increase awareness of South Carolina’s Responsible Fathers Registry.
Michael Scott, ’10, an employment and labor law attorney with Nexsen Pruet LLC, first heard about the Carolina Clerks program during a CLE presentation Robinson gave. He had been
working with the S.C. Appellate Practice Project, which helps young lawyers gain experience in appellate work by handling a pro bono case. To help balance the work load, Scott asked
Jennifer Jokerst to assist him through the Carolina Clerks program.
“She took time out of her busy third year and did incredible work,” he said. “She was diligent, thorough, demonstrated excellent writing skills and, most importantly, was very excited
to be part of the team. I plan to use Carolina Clerks again, but whoever assists will have very big shoes to fill.”
Jokerst, who graduated this past spring, said working with the Carolina Clerks program was among the most meaningful work she did in law school. “It is one thing to write a brief in
the abstract for class, but to do so on real cases, with real people depending on you, made this an invaluable learning experience,” she said.
“One of the greatest things about this country is that we all have certain rights, which include the right to a fair trial and the right to have someone adequately represent you,” she said. “Being able to work on this pro bono case through the Carolina Clerks program showed me firsthand how important the work of attorneys representing criminal defendants is to ensuring the justice system works as it should.”