Law students provide free legal services to New Orleans residents in need

Fifteen UW Law School students spent a week of their winter break in New Orleans, where they provided free legal services to residents in need.

The trip was planned by Legal Assistance for Disaster Relief, a student organization that matches law students with volunteer opportunities in locations hit hard by natural disaster.

Formerly known as the Student Hurricane Network, the group formed in 2008 and has been returning to Louisiana ever since. Martha Mohs, LADR president, says the need for low-cost legal services in New Orleans remains high, leaving resources at local agencies stretched.

“Since Katrina, New Orleans has also been impacted by Hurricanes Isaac and Gustav and the BP oil spill,” she says. “The city continues to deal with high crime, homelessness and HIV rates. People still face difficulties with insurance claims and receipt of government aid, and instances of contractor fraud are common.”

LADR students with their New Orleans hosts

Students volunteered at four New Orleans sites, where they worked on a range of civil and criminal legal issues and contributed a combined 525 hours of service. According to Mohs, LADR students get experience working on actual cases—interviewing clients and witnesses, doing legal research and drafting documents—while also learning how laws are carried out in another part of the country.

Moreover, she says, “Students get to see the impact their time and efforts have on a person's life.”

Participating law students can count their volunteer hours toward membership in the Law School’s Pro Bono Society. Nine participants logged enough hours in New Orleans to be eligible for induction into the Society when they graduate.

The trip was funded by an Associated Students of Madison travel grant and a UW Law School Class of ’77 grant. Students also contributed a portion of their trip costs.

For information on future LADR trips, contact the Pro Bono Program coordinator at UW Law School.

Submitted by Law School News on March 12, 2014

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