On May 1, from noon to 4 p.m., the School of Law will hold an open house to officially launch the Washington and Lee Community Law Center in Roanoke. The Center's goal is to enhance access to justice efforts in Roanoke. The event is co-sponsored by the Oliver Hill Foundation and is part of a series of events to celebrate Law Day.
The open house program will begin at 2:00 p.m. at the Oliver Hill House at 401 Gilmer Street, NW. The event will include remarks from Esther Vassar, president of the Oliver Hill Foundation, Roanoke Mayor David Bowers, and W&L Law Dean Rodney Smolla.
The W&L Community Law Center began offering pro bono legal services last fall in Roanoke to alleviate the harsh consequences of urban poverty. The Law Center operates out of the childhood home of the late civil rights activist Oliver White Hill. The home was made available to the School of Law by the Oliver Hill Foundation, which worked for several years to raise funds for the purchase and renovation of the home on Gilmer Street in Roanoke.
The W&L Community Law Center began operations with referrals from Blue Ridge Legal Services and has focused on elder law issues. The Center also works with Virginia Cares to assist ex-offenders with restoration of civil rights, with the Roanoke Bar Association on the Rule of Law Project, and is beginning work on domestic relations and immigration issues.
Upper-level law students with training in client interviewing and counseling skills staff the Center, which is supervised by Howard Highland, Esq., a law fellow with W&L. Volunteer mentor attorneys from the Roanoke Bar Association, in addition to law school faculty, review students' work and provide feedback and guidance.
The School is exploring other potential projects to operate from the Center, including juvenile outreach in local schools through practical law and mock trial programs, children's rights and guardianships issues, and low-income housing issues.
Law Day is celebrated each year in the U.S. on May 1 to reflect on the role of law in the foundation of the country and to recognize its importance for society. In addition to the W&L open house, the Roanoke Bar Association will hold an awards ceremony and fundraising event that evening to benefit the Roanoke Bar Association Foundation and the Oliver White Hill Foundation.