20th Anniversary Celebration

20th Anniversary Celebration Committee

20 Things You Might Not Know

20 Things You Can Do

Where are they now?

History of the Pro Bono Program

For the Good of the Order

Pro Bono Program

Where are they now?

Susan Hackett

What firm/organization are you working with now?
Office of Disciplinary Counsel

What kind of pro bono or volunteer work have you been involved in?
I volunteer with the Friends of the Richland County Public Library. I was a mentor at Dutch Fork Elementary School. I volunteer as a judge with the middle and high school mock trial competitions through the LRE Committee of the SC Bar. I do not engage in any pro bono practice because members of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel are not permitted to engage in the private practice law. After Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with the Bar to help displaced individuals.

What are the main reasons why you would recommend that law students become involved in pro bono work?
Balance. Maintaining balance during the practice of law is hard. It is important that law students start working on that balance during school. The Pro Bono Program provides that opportunity for balance because it provides an outlet for engaging in activities not directly related to class.

How would you encourage current law students to get involved with the Pro Bono program?
Continue to diversify the volunteer opportunities. The addition of the tax preparation program was wonderful because it opened up the group to students who were interested in tax. Many perceive the pro bono program as a group of self-righteous liberals. You will never change that perception for all, but by offering volunteer opportunities beyond the norm, you will change that perception for some. Find pro bono opportunities for the interests of the students who are not interested. Also, I would work to improve the relationship between the Pro Bono program at USC and career services. If students seeking career advice are advised to engage in volunteer activities, they may get involved with the Pro Bono program. You may also want to have speakers come in to talk about their pro bono work so that students will see it's a part of practice. Many of the large law firms strongly encourage their associates (and partners) to join boards in the community. For example, the Friends of the RCPL Board is largely made up of lawyers. Many law students may come to see that volunteering should be a part of their lives in future practice and that volunteering may provide networking opportunities while they are in school.

Has pro bono work contributed to your sense of career satisfaction?
Yes. I greatly enjoy assisting with the mock trial competitions.

Did your experiences in the Pro Bono program at USC prepare you or benefit you in your career?
Yes. The Pro Bono program reminded me that life is still going on. Often, law school is an isolating experience, and we forget that the world is still turning. The same thing happens in practice. We get so caught up in our own areas of practice or cases that it is easy to lose perspective.

In your career, have you seen an overlap between your volunteer work and your sense of your own place in the community and the legal profession?
I'm not sure I understand the question. My volunteer work has affected my sense of my place in the community. I derive a lot of satisfaction out of my volunteer work.

How do pro bono efforts fit in to the work of the South Carolina Bar?
The Bar could do a better job with pro bono efforts. Unfortunately, the Rule 608 crisis in this state makes it very difficult to discuss additional pro bono work for lawyers. I would love to see reform of the 608 problem. I think it would be great if government lawyers (like me) could be required to contribute to the public good just as non-government lawyers are through Rule 608. There is some tension between lawyers who are exempt from 608 appointments and those who are not. Additionally, many lawyers feel that they have given enough of themselves in terms of pro bono activity due to the 608 system.

What kind of perceptions, positive or negative, do you think that the bar as a whole has about attorneys who are actively involved in pro bono work?
Many members of the Bar have positive perceptions of attorneys involved in pro bono work. I'm sure there are negative opinions, but I'm not familiar with any attorneys who speak negatively of attorneys engaged in pro bono practice.

What is most memorable/best experience you had during your law school career through the Pro Bono program?
The food bank drives were lots of fun.

What does the 20th Anniversary of the Pro Bono program mean to you?
I'm proud to have been a part of a program that has been around for such a long time.

What is your most cherished memory with Pam?
One of my most cherished memories with Pam is eating her delicious home-cooking and playing with Pam's cat, Pandora, while we prepared for the next year (my 3rd year of law school) and the activities of the Pro Bono program. During our discussion of our plans for the next year, we also discussed law school in general, my classes, and general "how's life" topics. Pam always provided a friendly ear and sound advice.