News - Capital University Law School

Students See Pro Bono Opportunities

10/2/2017  -  Capital Law School students had the unique opportunity to hear about bankruptcy related pro bono opportunities from United States Bankruptcy Judge John E. Hoffman, Jr. and others from The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LSAC), during a presentation at the Law School on September 29. Judge Hoffman, a staunch supporter of pro bono work, was appointed as United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Ohio in 2000.

In 2010, the Columbus Bankruptcy Pro Bono Committee, which was chaired by Judge Hoffman, saw the need for a program that would help low income debtors. Volunteer attorneys, along with bankruptcy practitioners, joined forces to help address this problem.

Hoffman outlined the first facet of the program, the Chapter 7 project, which involves using volunteer attorneys and law students on a limited basis to assist low income clients who want to file bankruptcy but are not able to hire a private attorney.

Judge Hoffman informed the students of the great need for bankruptcy relief for low-income individuals, emphasizing that “the [high] attorney and filling fees are barriers to entry into the court system for many individuals, as studies estimate that over 1 million people would benefit from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but they are not able to afford it.”

The Bankruptcy Bypass Clinic is the second part of the program. It was developed to help elderly or disabled individuals who are “uncollectible” due to their low or protected income. This legal clinic, held every other month, law students meet with clients to verify their uncollectability and creditor information. The Legal Aid Society sends letters to the clients’ creditors, with the express purpose of stopping the often incessant creditor or debt collector contact. Experienced bankruptcy practitioners supervise students and answer questions.

Ashley Messick, the Law School’s Pro Bono Coordinator, wholeheartedly emphasizes the value of Capital Law School students’ participation in the Bankruptcy Program. “We are always looking to offer our students a variety of pro bono opportunities while in law school,” she said. “The Pro Bono Project through Legal Aid Society of Columbus allows our students to assist vulnerable clients during a very stressful period in their lives while enhancing the skills they will need for their future practice of law.”

Following Judge Hoffman’s presentation, representatives from Legal Aid discussed the wide variety of other pro bono work available for students, whether on a regular or intermittent basis.