The program includes six interactive seminars between the student participants and a variety of alumni, faculty, and other members of the legal community. Each seminar focuses on a competency identified by the Foundations study, such as communication and technology skills, the business of law practice, relationship building, and more.
A variety of practical and career-building components are also required. Students must prepare a career development plan, in which they outline their career goals and identify potential employers. They are conducting six informational interviews with lawyers in their field of interest, to learn more about that career path and practice and seek their advice. Participants are also working on a research assignment created by an alumnus who will also provide feedback. Finally, participants must complete at least 10 hours of community service.
“We’re in a time when so many in our communities are in need, and this is a great way for students to build real skills while working on causes important to them,” says Beal.
Pamela Robinson '86, director of the Pro Bono Program, similarly recognized the great need to keep students’ skills fresh while also giving them a chance to make professional contacts and help the community. With slight modifications, Robinson realized that many existing programs could be converted to online opportunities.
The first project that came to mind was VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which prepares tax returns for low income taxpayers. In consultation with Ed Palekas, Midlands VITA Coordinator at Cooperative Ministries, Robinson quickly developed a safe plan for moving to a Virtual VITA system, involving a masked and gloved in-person intake, with the rest of the paperwork being done virtually. Since March 23, the student volunteers, along with members of the SC Bar Young Lawyers Division, have prepared almost 300 returns.