The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 4th

UNC Cancer Pro Bono Project recognized

The UNC Cancer Pro Bono Project is a student-run program through the UNC School of Law that offers end-of-life planning to cancer patients and their families. UNC law students are connected with practicing attorneys to provide bimonthly legal services free of charge to those in need.

Recently, the program was awarded the Law Student Group Pro Bono Service Award by the NC Bar Association.

Mary Horowitz, director of public service and pro bono activities for the NC Bar Association, said the program stood out for being extremely collaborative and reaching cancer patients at a time when free legal resources were difficult to come by.

“It came down to a unique project and a really compelling client group,” she said. “There were no projects like it at the time it was started in our state.”

The program was started in 2013 by Sylvia Novinsky and law student Jodi Schur as a project through UNC Law’s Pro Bono program. It began as a partnership with Duke, and the two programs are still affiliated with one another but to a lesser extent.

Schur, a class of 2014 alumna, said it is amazing to watch the transformation of law students from nervous to confident after their first consultation.

“We sit in the classroom, and it’s really hard to see the value of all the hard work you’re putting in,” she said. “But then you’re sitting there with a cancer patient and their family and you’re able to provide them comfort by taking a stressor off of them, because they know their wishes will be followed at the end of their life.”

Students go through a rigorous training program to prepare them for the work, learning the law as well as confidentiality, ethics and how to have difficult conversations while interviewing the clients. In turn, the program offers students valuable experience.

Former Pro Bono director James Jolley emphasized the mutual program benefits for students, attorneys, patients and the community.

“All of us have needs that are being met by the project,” said Jolley, a 2014 graduate.

The program operates through UNC Hospitals and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, where most consultations take place. At the end of a visit, patients are provided with any necessary notarized legal documents without hassle.

Katy Jones, the director of communications and marketing for the center, said the collaboration between the Cancer Center and the Pro Bono program has been very rewarding.

“There are tremendous benefits to patients, but also advantages to students as well,” she said.

“It’s a fantastic program.”

The Cancer Pro Bono Project has served 281 patients over the last two academic years. Though Schur has graduated, she plans to stay connected by creating a nonprofit organization that creates similar cancer pro bono programs in other law schools.

Schur said this work is important and beneficial to all law students, and hopes to spread programs of its kind.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of law they end up practicing; we’re planting seeds of professional responsibility.”

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