Love of public service drives Caldwell to law school role

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

May 23, 2013

In 2008, the Tennessee Supreme Court laid out a strategic plan to get attorneys more involved in pro bono work.

Though it isn’t required of the state’s professionals, there is an inspirational goal of 50 hours per year of public service that is heavily encouraged by the justices.

At the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, however, students are required to complete 40 hours of pro bono during their school career.

Callie Caldwell, public interest law counselor for the school, said that approach will benefit students when they leave school to practice.

“We wanted our students to get in there, dig in while they’re in law school, learn those skills and be very comfortable doing pro bono work so that when they graduate they’ll be able to quickly transition and be used to doing the kind of work that comes along with what’s typically considered as pro bono,” she said.

In that capacity, Caldwell’s work is two-fold as the director of the pro bono program: monitoring students and creating placement within their interests in a field with working lawyers of the community. With career services, she counsels and guides students that want to work in the world of public interest.

Students can’t start working until they’ve had at least 15 hours of coursework completed, usually in their second semester. They work with attorneys on projects such as the law school’s monthly pro se divorce clinic or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, working to allow the children of immigrants to stay in the country for up to two years and obtain a driver’s license, work, go to college or join the military … (read more)