What is Project HELP?
Project Homeless Experience Legal Protection, also known as Project HELP, is the Richland County Bar Association’s flagship pro bono initiative. The HELP Clinic is a project of the Richland County Bar Association Public Service Committee in conjunction with the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program. Since 2007, the HELP Clinic has provided free legal consultations to hundreds of homeless individuals in the midlands. The local clinic is part of the nationwide Project HELP program, currently active in in over 15 cities around the country, founded in 2004 in New Orleans by federal district court Judge Jay Zainey. In the words of Judge Zainey, “as lawyers, we have an obligation to use the special skills we’ve been given to give back to the community and minimize homelessness as best we can.”
What happens at the HELP Clinic?
Project HELP volunteers sit down with homeless individuals for half-hour consultation sessions and provide basic information and guidance about family law, criminal record expungement, government benefits, and other legal issues. The goal of the clinic is to actively focus on specific legal issues that are blocking the paths of homeless individuals towards transitioning into permanent housing and employment. HELP Clinic volunteers from the private bar are a critical part of this initiative.
Who are the HELP Clinic volunteers?
The only requirements to volunteer with Project HELP are a law license and a willingness to help. Many volunteers start working with the Clinic during their first year of practice. New volunteers are provided with support, including the opportunity to sit in on consultation sessions with other attorneys in order to get comfortable with the way the Clinic operates.
Does the HELP Clinic involve ongoing representation?
No. Volunteers have the opportunity to take on clients on an ongoing pro bono basis, but generally do not.
When/where is the Clinic held?
The HELP Clinic is held from 8:30-10:00 a.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at the Transitions shelter in downtown Columbia (2025 Main St., Columbia, SC 29201).
How big is the time commitment?
Each clinic lasts approximately an hour and a half. Many volunteers sign up for 4 or more clinics per year, but there is no minimum requirement.
How can you get involved?
Individuals and firms are encouraged to sign up to volunteer at the Clinic on a regular basis. Click here to access the Project HELP online sign-up calendar.
To request more information about the HELP Clinic and upcoming volunteer opportunities, contact Will Dillard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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What people are saying about Project HELP
“HELP Clinic clients are already motivated to resolve their legal issues; often, they just need to know where to start. Giving clients legal advice or guidance that helps them over that initial hurdle is so rewarding.”
-Kathleen McDaniel, Esquire
“It’s an excellent way for young lawyers to develop and fine tune skills vital to their everyday practices, and it only takes a couple of hours a month at most. Without a doubt, it’ll make you a better lawyer.”
-Ben Bruner, Esquire