Patrick O’Neill (1L) has been selected as the Pro Bono Program’s Volunteer of the Semester for Spring 2012. Patrick contributed over 120 hours of pro bono service during a pro bono internship at ABC for Health, a public interest law firm dedicated to ensuring health care access for children and families, particularly those with special needs or who are at risk.
A Range of Opportunities to Serve: Legal Service and Advocacy at ABC for Health
After learning about ABC for Health at a Career Services event during fall semester, Patrick approached the organization inquiring about their need for volunteer assistance. This request turned into a semester-long pro bono internship that benefited the organization as well as Patrick’s legal education. ABC for Health provides both legal services and policy advocacy to promote health care access for all people. During his internship, Patrick was able to contribute to both of these missions. As Patrick’s supervising attorney, Erin McBride, explained, “Patrick was able to assist attorneys on a range of tasks, from drafting medical affidavits to helping families with newborns in Neonatal Intensive Care.” Patrick also participated in community outreach and education by researching health care laws in Wisconsin and helping to organize the Health Watch Wisconsin annual conference at ABC for Health.
Learning through Service: The Benefits of Pro Bono Work
In addition to providing much-need volunteer assistance at ABC for Health, Patrick benefited greatly from the experience. As a 1L student in his second semester of law school, Patrick was able to improve his legal research and writing skills in a real-world context. Working with clients at ABC for Health also allowed Patrick to approach his coursework from a practical perspective. He explained, “ I could bring my pro bono work into the classroom, posing questions in class based on my volunteer experiences.” In addition, his internship gave Patrick insights into possible career paths that he may pursue after law school. He plans to practice in the public interest sector, and volunteering at ABC for Health helped him to learn more about what such a career would entail.
A Continued Commitment
Patrick will spend the next year as a clinical law student in the Neighborhood Law Clinic, a UW Law School clinical program that assists low-income Madison residents with housing, employment, and public benefits cases. Patrick also plans to pursue a joint degree in non-profit management at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. In addition to his academic commitments, Patrick plans to continue his pro bono involvement in the community; next semester he will volunteer at Dane County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) advocating for abused and neglected children who are under the legal protection of the Dane County Court System. Having started law school less than one year ago, it is clear that Patrick has made the most of the opportunities available at UW Law School. He will continue to do so in preparation for a lifelong career in service to others.
To nominate a student as a Pro Bono Program Volunteer of the Semester, contact the Pro Bono Program staff.