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Bowen Law Student Shares Importance of Pro Bono Work After Providing Legal Services to Arkansans in the Delta

Jeramy Ashton, a third-year Bowen law student, visits Elaine, Arkansas, during Spring Break 2023: On the Road to Justice program.
Jeramy Ashton, a third-year Bowen law student, visits Elaine, Arkansas, during Spring Break 2023: On the Road to Justice program.

A UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law student renews a passion for pro bono work after participating in a spring break trip providing legal aid to underserved Arkansans.

Jeramy Ashton, a third-year law student and native of Salt Lake City, Utah, was one of eight state law students who participated in Spring Break 2023: On the Road to Justice program. Legal Aid of Arkansas annually sponsors the trip, which gives law students the opportunity to get practical experience as well as understand the importance and the need for providing pro bono service to underserved and underrepresented populations.

“I came to Bowen because of the institution’s core values: Public Service, Professionalism, and Access to Justice. Opportunities like Road to Justice continue to remind me how important it is to listen to people and meet people where they are in their hometowns,” Ashton said. “I also gained a greater appreciation of the state where I reside and a greater understanding of the essential need for and importance of pro bono work.”

During March 20-23, the students provided legal services in Elaine, Marianna, and West Helena.

“Legal Aid of Arkansas’s mission is to champion equal justice for l0w-income individuals and communities,” Ashton said. “We provided services pertaining to estate planning, domestic relations, record sealing, and fair housing testing. I was fortunate to work with the executive director of Legal Aid of Arkansas on health insurance matters as it relates to the public health emergency and coverage changes in Medicaid. This provided a great opportunity to learn more about the state outside of Pulaski County.”

Legal Aid of Arkansas typically handles cases for people whose household income is 125 percent of or below the federal poverty guideline. In the Delta area of Arkansas, 25 percent of the population lives in poverty, meaning one out of every five residents is eligible for legal aid, according to Legal Aid of Arkansas.

During the trip, Ashton prepared more than 100 legal documents for 30 clients. He was especially moved by his time in Elaine, where they were housed in the temporary home of the Elaine Museum, because it was the first time students in the spring break program had provided legal services to Elaine.

“Gaining the trust of the people, especially in Elaine, can be very difficult,” Ashton said. “Just getting our feet wet there and letting the people know that we want to help them in any way we can was a huge accomplishment in itself. Being able to meet people in all three towns was very special.”

Ashton was so moved by the spring break experience that he has already volunteered at another Legal Aid of Arkansas event, a name and gender correction clinic that provided legal services for 26 people in northwest Arkansas.

“The most rewarding part of the clinic was seeing the relief in the eyes of the clients,” Ashton said. “The On the Road to Justice trip reignited a fire and provided me with the necessary motivation to get more involved with pro bono work. I hope that more law students and attorneys make more time and space for pro bono work in their careers.”