Elon Law Pro Bono Project Descriptions
Below is a list of projects ongoing at Elon Law. We strive to offer a diverse range of pro bono volunteer opportunities - whether presented to students by either the Pro Bono Board or other student organizations - and project availability is subject to change. All opportunities offered to students are done so with the help and support of licensed attorneys and/or other organizations that provide free or reduced cost licensed legal services to members of the public with a demonstrated need.
If you are in need of legal assistance, we ask that you work through the sponsoring organizations or see our Legal Help for the Public page.
Lawyer on the Line
Working in conjunction with Legal Aid of North Carolina, students screen potential clients to determine whether they have valid legal issues. The student conducts the initial client interview, confers with the supervising attorney, and if the case progresses, conducts research regarding the issues presented, and contacts the client with the findings agreed upon by the supervising attorney. This is an excellent opportunity to develop client interview skills, to explain legal concepts to the client, to research legal issues, and learn how to manage deadlines.
The Innocence Project operates as an independent student organization that partners with the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. Students work on initial case reviews for individuals who have exhausted their appeals and are currently unrepresented, preparing a review memo and transcript summary seeking new, unexplored evidence that may exonerate the individual.
People Not Property Project
Elon Law students are working with a faculty member and the Guilford County Register of Deeds to transcribe all the handwritten bills of sale relating to slavery in Guilford County. This important work will allow academics, as well as professional and amateur genealogists to research the heritage of persons enslaved in North Carolina. These documents are often the only written records relating to enslaved persons before the end of the Civil War. This project ensures the history of those individuals will not be lost or forgotten. Transcribing the bills of sale allows students to witness that one time, enslaved persons in Guilford County were treated as property. Recognizing this part of our local and national history allows us to better understand that all people are worthy of freedom, equality and respect. This work ensures that those persons enslaved in Guilford County will not be forgotten.
Certificate of Citizenship Project
Students will work with Elon Law’s Humanitarian & Immigration Law Clinic (HILC) to complete pro bono hours providing immigration legal services to former HILC clients on behalf of their qualifying children. Students will prepare applications for “Certificates of Citizenship” for children with lawful permanent residence whose parents are naturalized U.S. citizens. These services will be provided to former HILC clients with prior immigration status as asylees or refugees. Students will meet with clients, perform intake interviews, gather evidence, and prepare applications under the supervision of a HILC practitioner.
Guardian Ad Litem
Second- and third-year Elon Law students are eligible to participate in the Guardian ad Litem program. GAL volunteers serve as court-appointed advocates and the voice for children in the juvenile court system. The children we work with have been abused and/or neglected by their parents and are in the custody of the local Department of Health and Human Services. GALs conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of these children’s lives, facilitate their needs being met by helping locate community resources, and advocate that those services be put into place. Advocates attend court hearings on behalf of the child to report to the court what is in the child’s best interest concerning their life. This process continues until these children are out of the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and into a safe, permanent home. GALs visit with the child once per month and make contact on a regular basis with the other pertinent people in their life to help advocate for their best interest. Most GALs spend 8-12 hours per month performing their duties as a court-appointed advocate. The time spent volunteering is flexible and built around the GAL’s schedule. GALs in Guilford County must commit to serve for the life of a child’s court case, which averages 24 months.
The process of becoming a GAL volunteer includes an application (completed on the GAL website), background check, interview, and 30-hour training. To learn more about the program visit www.volunteerforgal.org
Guilford County Teen Court
The Guilford County Teen Court works as an alternative to juvenile court. It prevents youth from developing a juvenile criminal records and is specifically designed for children 8-17, who are first time offenders with misdemeanor charges. Youth referred to Teen Court admit responsibility for their charged offenses and are sentenced by a jury consisting of other children. Typical offenses in Teen Court include communicating threats, larceny, driving offenses, assault, and drug and alcohol possession, among others. Teen Court is an alternative to juvenile court because it allows for more rehabilitative options for first-time offenders. Teen Court is held in Guilford County three times per month on Tuesday nights. Law students have the opportunity to work with the Teen Court by serving as a judge, an attorney, an exit interviewer, or as a clerk. Teen Court is a great opportunity to learn more about the juvenile justice system, as well as to get court experience and further oral advocacy skills.
The Tax Clinic provides students with an opportunity to give back to the community and to assist low-income individuals with the preparation of their tax returns at no cost. In 2017, Elon Law students helped 880 individuals with their tax returns. In 2018, 935 individuals were helped, generating $639,980 in federal tax refunds and $69,583 in state refunds, placing a significant amount of money back in our local community.
Clear the Queue/Wills for Heroes
Elon Law partners with state and local bar associations, the NCBA’s Young Lawyers Division, Legal Aid of North Carolina, and other professional groups to support or host occasional walk-in legal help programs. In October 2012, Elon Law hosted its first Ask-A-Lawyer Day in conjunction with Legal Aid of Greensboro during the American Bar Association's Celebrate Pro Bono Week. In Fall 2016, we partnered with the Alamance County Bar Association for the event. Elon Law professors and students have organized Wills for Heroes events at the school, and they continue to keep in contact with event organizers regarding future events. Additionally, Elon Law students have assisted the Young Lawyers Division and North Carolina Bar Association in support of the annual 4ALL call-in legal assistance program each March.