School of Law Recognizes Student Pro Bono Volunteers
Posted on November 17, 2011
The University of Arkansas School of Law’s Pro Bono Program will host its fifth annual awards ceremony to honor students who are making a positive difference in the community. The event is scheduled for Monday, April 25, in the Bobby McDaniel Trial Practice Classroom (room 342) in Leflar Law Center. The ceremony and luncheon are open to the public.
Awards will be presented to the four students who have accumulated the greatest number of approved volunteer hours during their law school careers. Third-year law student Kambira Jones will be presented the Robert F. Fussell Pro Bono Award for volunteering the greatest number of hours. Second-year law student Nancy Hall, second-year law student Josh Mostyn and third-year law student Fernando Ruiz also will be honored.
Jones, who completed most of her hours working the District Attorney’s Office Dallas, Texas, and with the Habitat Wills Project, stated, “[I]t is imperative that I utilize the knowledge and skills I obtained during my legal education to not only create a better life for myself and my family, but to ensure that those unable to afford an attorney receive quality, zealous representation.”
Hall, who volunteered at the law office of Diane Warren and the Walton Arts Center, stated “Pro bono work gives me a sense of belonging in the community.” Hall continued, “It makes a difference in the lives of others, and I cannot imagine withholding the ability to help, as slight as it might be. I volunteer out of gratitude for the charity that has been shown to me over the years. To do so makes me a better person.”
Other students have a different take on pro bono work, viewing it as a means to gain experience. Mostyn, who completed most of his hours by working with Rogers Teen Court and the Rogers District Court commented, “Do some pro bono work. Who’s going to want to pay you until you know what you’re doing? Go learn something.”
Ruiz, who volunteered for Legal Aid of Arkansas and Habitat for Humanity Restore, stated, “It’s not difficult to feel a strong commitment to do pro bono work when part of the reason why college and law school were possibilities is because of someone that did pro bono work for me. Now that I’m in a position to possibly shape someone else’s life like mine has been shaped, I feel like to not attempt to return the favor is a showing of how ungrateful one is.”
Students can earn pro bono or community service hours by volunteering in legal or non-legal capacities, though many students work mainly with private-sector attorneys, Public Defenders, and nonprofit legal organizations. The volunteer work consists of everything from research to practicing under the license of a certified attorney. In order to be considered, students must work with members of the community who are disadvantaged, and cannot accept any kind of compensation for their services.
Pro Bono Coordinator Susan Williams commented, “I have worked in this position for five years and our students still never cease to amaze me.” Williams continued, “I don’t know how they juggle so many things and still find time to volunteer the hours they do. Most tell me they don’t want to be recognized, stating “that’s not why I did it.” This year, 78 Law School students have reported more than 3300 volunteer hours.
Keynote speakers for the event are Teresa Mills and Sarah Sparkman. Mills is the Chief Executive Officer for the Peace at Home Family Shelter, an emergency safe shelter for families escaping family violence, where she is responsible for the fund development, communications, strategic planning and day-to-day operations at the shelter. A lifelong Arkansan, Mills attended the University of Central Arkansas in Conway and the University of Arkansas.
Sparkman is a 2010 graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law. While in law school, Sparkman served as student advocate in the Transactional and Immigration Clinics. After passing the bar exam in September 2010, she accepted a job with Legal Aid of Arkansas in Jonesboro where she now represents low income clients in Craighead and Poinsett Counties. Sparkman focuses her work in housing issues and also represents victims of domestic violence.