South Carolina's Flagship University

Pro Bono Program

Virtual Research Volunteers

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Job Description

Goal: To provide support to the SC Bar Pro Bono Program's SCLawAnswers.org initiative

What is SCLawAnswers.org? It is an effort of the SC Bar Pro Bono Program to provide members of the public access to legal information relative to their personal issues. It is an online program with a self-screening tool for determining income eligibility. The process involves a member of the public logging on to a website, creating a user id and password, completing a questionnaire designed to determine income eligibility and compliance with several rules and finally drafting and posting a question. At this point the question is available to volunteer attorneys to be answered anonymously.

What is the problem? The number of questions being posted by the public is overwhelming the site. The volunteer attorneys cannot keep up with the volume. Since this is a new project it will take time to increase the number of available pro bono attorneys.

How do USC Law students fit into the solution of the problem? Lawyers are already aware that they can call on the Carolina Clerks: Pro Bono Clerks for Pro Bono Lawyers Program for questions they don't know the answer to or need research to verify the correct response. The problem isn't that lawyers don't know the answer; the problem is that they are not taking the time to write the answers! This may be because many of the questions are vague, redundant, or obviously too complex and need the advise of an attorney but the pro bono attorney does not want to take the time to look up the resources for referral and type a response. One note: no attorney-client privilege is established through this system as it is anonymous. This is where law students come to the rescue!

How will the VRV operate? Simple- each month the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program will download a selection of questions from the SCLawAnswers.org website and compile them into one document. VRV's who have signed up will have access to that list and can choose which questions they want to draft an answer to. A streamlined process for review and distribution has been developed that will also help create a system for referencing frequently asked questions.

Responsibilities of USC Law students must:

  • Be in good academic standing
  • Be willing to accept research assignments and complete in a timely manner
  • Be willing to download Dropbox to their computer
  • Read and comply with the Ethics and Confidentiality Memo on the Pro Bono Program Homepage.
  • Be willing to keep records of their involvement in the M.Y.Pro Bono database.

Responsibilities of the USC School of Law Pro Bono Program are to:

  • Recruit and enroll volunteer law students to serve as VRV
  • Invite VRV to use the specially created Dropbox folder
  • Monthly create and download a list of questions from SCLawAnswers.org
  • Review drafts of answers and post final answers to SClawAnswers.org
  • Manage the contents of the Dropbox
  • Recognize the efforts of VRV's