Capital Celebrates Pro Bono Week
Every year at the end of October, the American Bar Association holds a nationwide Pro Bono Celebration Week to bring awareness to the large amount of unmet legal need across our country.
This year’s theme was “Serving Veterans,” and the goal was to get law firms and law schools nationwide involved in planning activities that bring attention to these issues, all while using the hashtag #ABAservingveterans on social media.
“This is my favorite time of year” said Capital University Law School’s Pro Bono Coordinator, Ashley Messick. “We get to celebrate not only the pro bono work that our students and alumni do, but also how far we have to go to reach all of the low-income folks who need legal representation, but cannot afford it. Every year we aim to do something that is thought-provoking and eye opening. I think we accomplished that this year, especially with our focus on veterans and their unique challenges.”
This year’s celebration included a variety of events throughout the entire week. The back lobby wall was decorated and filled with large signs that displayed sometimes shocking facts about veterans, including high rates of poverty and PTSD. There was a food drive that was held until Veterans’ Day, in which the Law School Community collected food and toiletries to benefit M.A.S.H., a charitable Military and Service Heroes Pantry serving Veterans, Armed Forces, their families and survivors of the Columbus Metropolitan area, as many veterans struggle with homelessness and food instability.
On Wednesday, there was a pro bono panel discussion held at the Law School. Six Capital Law Graduates gathered to discuss why they did pro bono work and how they fit it into their busy schedules. These attorneys came from a variety of backgrounds and work in different environments, and it was really interesting to hear each of their stories and about the pro bono work that they do. Many panelists emphasized that attorneys have an ethical obligation to perform some unpaid work for those who cannot afford it, and that one can always make time for volunteering. The panel members included Jason Gerken, L’13, John Sauter, L’11, Jesse Branner L ’13, Mary Nienaber, L’09, and Ricky Parsons, L’07. The panel was moderated by Demi Johnson, L’14.
“I truly enjoyed moderating the panel and being involved with pro bono week,” Ms. Johnson said. “Pro bono volunteering in law school and as an attorney has been such an enriching and growing experience for me!”
The Law School hosted a 1 hour Continuing Legal Education course on Friday that was conducted by Mike McCarthy, the new executive director of Operation Legal Help Ohio. This presentation, entitled “Representing Service Members: Understanding Their Service is Essential to Understanding Their Case,” explored the basics of military structure and provided helpful definitions and hypotheticals that demonstrated the special legal issues that may come up in representing service members and veterans.
“Lawyers have a responsibility to use our unique skills and training in the service of others,” said Mr. McCarthy, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. “The ABA’s focus this year on helping veterans is right in line with Operation Legal Help Ohio’s mission of serving those who served. Hopefully this CLE will help lawyers to better understand their client’s military service so they can better advance their legal cause.”
Overall, this was a great week in the Law School community. Pro Bono Celebration Week is a special time to focus on this very important cause, and to help us all remember why we want to become lawyers in the first place: to help others, even when they cannot always afford to pay you.