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Our program makes young lawyers appreciate the special nature of their skills and how they can give back to their communities.

year. T e law school makes a special recognition at graduation of students who have performed 100 or more hours of pro bono service. Operating primarily from August

to April, with special projects going on during the winter and spring breaks, the program matches law students with practicing attorneys across the state to work on cases that the attorneys have taken for free or at reduced rates. Working on pro bono projects gives students valuable hands-on experience while encouraging attorneys to take on cases that they might not otherwise have the resources to do. Administered by twelve law students,

the program has fi lled hundreds of placements with attorneys in non-profi t organizations, private practice, and North Carolina’s legal services organiza- tions since its inception in 1997. It was during this period of organi-

zational creativity that Novinsky was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system. “I developed a mobility issue on

the right side of my body, legs, then arms,” she says. “I thought it was a

pinched nerve and I was given steroids. However, the MRI revealed plaques on the brain, a space sending mes- sages to limbs to move.” Nevertheless,

she soon recov- ered and has not allowed her illness to aff ect her career. Her pro bono work has been hugely successful and she has since been tapped to oversee public service programming at UNC School of Law.

Her pro bono work also has gar-

nered awards, including the Pro Bono Program of the Year, presented by New Orleans Pro Bono Project, and the North Carolina Bar Association Law Student Project of the Year for her UNC Law Pro Bono Program. “Our program makes young law-

yers appreciate the special nature of their skills and how they can give back to their communities,” she says. Her Pro Bono Program teaches law

students how to talk to clients about legal issues and how to provide ser- vices under the supervision of licensed attorneys, she says, and it is her hope that when they become licensed attor- neys they will consider it the norm to do pro bono. Some 84 percent of this year’s graduating class participates in the Pro Bono Program. “So many people don’t have access

to legal services because they can’t aff ord it, and students can help to fi ll the needs of that gap,” she says. T e all-volunteer program relies

on philanthropic support. Deans and faculty have been generous in donat- ing funds, she says, and many lawyers in the community outside the school

have donated their time to oversee students’ work. T ough the nature of her illness

has subjected her to periodic relapses, they have not been long lasting, and she says she has been lucky to be able to maintain a regular fi tness routine that others with MS often cannot. But the disease is unpredictable and it’s uncertain how long she can continue her current regimen. “You have to watch about how you

manage your energy,” she explains. She’s very open with her colleagues

about the illness and when it is complicating her ability to perform on the job. From this she has developed an insight that she communicates to young lawyers she counsels. “Even though the lawyer is sup-

posed to be the hero, he or she can also have personal problems,” she says. “T at is why I fi nd it benefi cial to help students become personal problem solvers. Understanding and dealing with personal problems and emotions is a good fi rst step in this process. Not only will it help them to better empathize with the client, but it can help them address their own issues that may become manifest in their work. You need to be empathetic. It makes you a better counselor as a lawyer.” Novinsky, who once hosted a

Spanish-language radio show in which she talked to listeners and guests about their legal rights, is close to the Latino community. She is on the Latino aff airs committee of the North Carolina Bar Association and involved in the Latino-Hispanic Law Student committee that provides guidance to Latino students on navigating the thorny road to success. “Take advantage of the gift that

you have been provided with,” she tells them, “which is your unique educa- tion. Don’t be afraid to live up to your potential, to challenge yourself.” D&B

Tom Calarco is a freelance writer based in Altamonte Springs, Fla.


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