Second-year law students Bill Forman and Marc Supcoff use case books rather than ladles in their weekly visits to a nearby soup kitchen, and they say their help -- like the meals -- is helping local residents to get by. Forman and Supcoff are members of the first class fulfilling their public service requirement for the Law School. They go to the Church of Our Saviour at 38th and Chestnut streets each Wednesday night to give free legal advice to needy area residents who come to be fed. After three months of donating their legal help, Forman and Supcoff, like most other second-year Law students, praised the pro bono service program and said because of it, they are considering continuing part-time public service law. Under the new requirement, which faculty approved in May of 1989, second- and third-year students are required to do 35 hours of pro bono legal work each year in order to graduate. The Law School was one of the first schools in the country to establish a public service requirement. The program is gaining so much popularity in the school that some Law students who do not even have to fulfill the requirement -- like this year's graduating class who entered before the requirement was instated -- are donating their legal help. Students' service runs the gamut from researching briefs for the American Civil Liberties Union to counseling food stamp recipients. Most students, like Forman and Supcoff, have chosen to work directly with the poor. The soup kitchen where Forman and Supcoff volunteer is run by the University City Hospitality Coalition. Volunteers serve meals to approximately 100 people in two shifts, and each meal begins with a prayer given by one of the children who comes to eat. At one meal late last month, diners were offered spaghetti with meat sauce, mashed potatoes, applesauce and bread. Most of the food is donated by University Dining Services, UCHC volunteers said. Third-year Law student Paul Minorini said there were more people than usual at the meal because people have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month. Minorini and others volunteer their legal help at the kitchen although they are not required to do pro bono work for their law degrees. Before grace at the meal, Minorini announced that Supcoff and Forman were available in a room in the back to counsel about legal issues. As other student volunteers began to serve the dinner, the two law students went into the back room and waited for clients. Wayne and Carol, a neatly dressed couple in their early 40s, were the first diners to seek advice that evening. They wanted to know how to find an organization that could help them pay the security deposit on the apartment. They both have taken drug tests in an attempt to get jobs with the Postal Service during the holiday season and said they found an apartment they would like to move into. Wayne, a mustachioed man wearing a sweatsuit, explained that he and Carol were currently living in a boarding house. Carol sat silently next to Wayne and nodded as he explained their plight. Forman and Supcoff listened and took notes, and after Wayne had finished speaking, said they will look for an agency that might be interested in helping the couple get back on their feet. But Forman said after the couple left the room that he is not confident that the two will be able to find money because few organizations give the monetary advances Wayne and Carol would need. As Supcoff and Forman waited between meals, they said many people for whom they promise to find information never return or do not return for many weeks. Others, they said, return with "non-problems" and really just seem to want someone to talk to. "And that's okay, too," Supcoff said. Late in the second meal, another client, James, came back for counseling about a complicated legal problem. James said he was told by a public defender, after he was arrested two years ago, that his arrest may have been illegal and that he may have grounds to sue the police. He is considering whether to file suit, and asked Supcoff and Forman for help in finding the original public defender or someone else who would be willing to take his case. James said that if he won a judgement against the police he could use the money to start over. "You've gotta understand," James said. "Money's what helps you get something." As they do for many clients, the students gave James numbers of agencies which may be able to help him. Although Supcoff and Forman said that they do not always use their classroom knowledge, they have had training in how the city system works and are able to set clients off in the right direction.Comments powered by Disqus
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