Law students hold will workshops
Many of the residents at B’nai B’rith have no written will. And, most of them have never been to a lawyer.
For the past several years, students working in the law clinic have teamed up with the management at B’nai B’rith to offer residents the opportunity to receive free legal services related to the drafting of wills. B’nai B’rith is a housing complex in Dauphin County that provides affordable housing to seniors and adults with disabilities.
This year about 10 students from the clinic went to the housing complex to hold “Will Workshops.” Each workshop starts with a presentation given by a student or one of the attorneys at the law clinic. The information in the presentation includes general information about simple wills, powers of attorney and advanced health care directives (living wills).
Students then meet with residents separately and gather information to draft the requested documents. After the students have completed the requested documents, they are reviewed by an attorney in the law clinic and returned to the client to finalized and sign.
“Not only does this relationship with the residents in the complex enhance the student's experiential learning while in law school, but the Harrisburg community benefits from WLC students who provide this service to the elderly who really need the peace of mind that some of their legal affairs are in order,” said Mary Catherine Scott, clinical faculty and interim director of the Central Pennsylvania Law Clinics.
Andy Webber, a second-year law student, said that going to the center allowed him the opportunity to practice his interpersonal work skills with clients that may be dealing with complicated issues.
"Matters are rarely ever simple, even if you are drafting a "simple" will. Clients can have a myriad of goals they wish to accomplish, and trying to ascertain what I client really wants, and what would be in their best interest, is a skill that requires a great deal of practice to master," he said.
Gregory Neff, service coordinator at B’nai B’rith, estimated that about 10 residents take advantage of the services from law students each semester. He anticipates that number to increase as residency approaches full capacity in the next year at the center.
“I believe the biggest drive for me having these events is knowing the importance behind having your affairs in order. I have experienced these situations first hand and the difficulties of not having legal affairs in order can cause on a family as well as the stress on the individual,” Neff said. “The tenants who currently reside at B’nai B’rith are living on a very fixed income and do not have the resources to work with a private attorney to draw and explain the necessary documents and WLC is able to meet this need.”