Kelley said this project addresses nonprofits’ legal concerns related to CARES Act loans and loan forgiveness, real estate issues and employment law, as well as other legal questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s great demand for legal services, partly helping nonprofit organizations get access to federal relief funds under the CARES Act,” Kelley said. “For some nonprofit organizations, they are in such crisis mode, they haven’t even been able to pick up the phone to call us or anyone else for help.”
Martin Brinkley, dean of the law school and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law, also acknowledged the need to provide legal services for nonprofits, and said the project gives law students the opportunity to acquire experience.
“Nonprofits are the backbone to North Carolina communities and this project allows law students to gain hands-on experience while providing pro-bono services to these organizations who desperately need help,” Brinkley said in an email statement.
Jake Farrell, a law student working on the project, said many students' plans for the summer were canceled due to rescinded job offers because of the pandemic.
“This COVID project from UNC Law School has provided an opportunity for students who would have otherwise worked with other employers an opportunity to get really hands-on substantive legal experiences,” Farrell said.
As part of the project, law firms Troutman Sanders and Pepper Hamilton — soon to be Troutman Pepper — are helping to mentor law students.
Walter Fisher, partner at Troutman Sanders, said they hosted a two-day training session over Zoom, and now offer weekly office hours to answer students’ questions.
“We thought it was an appropriate and fitting way for our firms to make the contribution to the greater good during what is a very difficult time,” Fisher said.
Kelley said that though this project is only scheduled for eight weeks during summer, the need for the services being provided will likely continue past the program.
“In some cases, our perception is that the services that the law school is providing and that we’re providing mentorship and assistance with can really be the difference between the collapse or the continuation of some of the non-profits that are being served,” Fisher said.