January 29, 2014
In rural Panama, law students from Tulane provide residents with pro bono legal consultations.
(Photo by Brittany Wolf)
Nineteen Tulane Law School students performed client intake, legal research and community education in rural Panama recently as representatives of the Tulane Law and Human Rights Chapter of Global Brigades.
Global Brigades has hundreds of chapters worldwide, focused on a range of issues from public health to business to legal aid. Most chapters are on an undergraduate campus.
“I don’t think interest in pro bono work should end after college,” says law student Brittany Wolf, so she and her classmates created the Global Brigades chapter and planned a trip to Rio Congo Arriba in Panama’s Darien Province.
Wolf says that Rio Congo Arriba was an ideal location for a Global Brigades trip. The area is rural and largely undeveloped, and residents earn less than $100 per month, making legal services unaffordable for most.
The Tulane students worked with attorneys from Panama City, Panama, to provide pro bono legal consultations and assist residents with family and property law issues. The group also hosted a workshop to educate residents on their legal rights and empower them to conduct some basic transactions that would not require an attorney, such as obtaining child support.
In addition to learning and explaining a foreign legal system, students also got to brush up on their Spanish. Five of the students speak fluent Spanish and Global Brigades translators joined the group to ensure comprehension.
After pro bono work was done, many of the students participated in a VIP tour of the Panama Canal and met with members of Panama’s government, including Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli.
Wolf says the group is already looking at next steps. “We are working with a JD/MBA student to start a business and microfinance chapter at the business school, which we hope to have up and running next year.”
Alex Chasick, a freelance writer living in New Orleans, is a 2005 graduate of Tulane University.
This story first appeared in Tulane University's New Wave.