By Shelby Jarman
Unlike many law students, Samuel Mehr did not always know that he wanted to go to law school. His interests lie in business and finance, and specifically social impact investing. As he was finishing up graduate work in economics at Central Michigan University in 2016, he realized that having a legal background would be immensely helpful in his chosen career. And as an avid skier, attending law school in Salt Lake City seemed like a natural choice.
Another factor in his decision to attend the S.J. Quinney College of Law was the college’s robust Pro Bono Initiative, a program that allows students to volunteer their time to help communities in need at 12 different legal clinics. Mehr began volunteering early in his first year of law school, dedicating a majority of his pro bono hours to the Street Law Clinic and the Homeless Outreach Project.
“A lot of what you learn while doing pro bono work comes from the clients,” he said. “We are getting a chance to practice and hone our skills, but it’s really the relationships you form and the perspective you gain from the people that come and see us that’s truly valuable.”
One such client that had an impact on Mehr was a woman who had been visiting the Street Law Clinic for over five years. Mehr was the third student she worked with, and he spent two years working on her complicated employment dispute case. Mehr and the previous students who worked on her cause utilized every resource and opportunity they could to help this client, helping her navigate the federal court system and walking her through the process of responding to a summary judgement motion. When her case was finished and the time came for her last visit to the Street Law Clinic, the client and Mehr thanked each other and shared an emotional goodbye.
“These people really show you what it means to be an attorney,” Mehr said. “They’re strangers, yet they trust you with everything. They see you as someone who will listen unbiasedly, and they take your advice as meaning something important. It gives them hope.”
After Mehr graduates, he hopes to work in social impact investing, helping to create the legal framework necessary to align market investments with positive social, environmental, and economic returns.
“I think that’s a way for me to practice law and utilize my economic and finance background, while also still being involved in helping others,” he said.
To learn more about the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative, including the free legal clinics, click here.
Shelby Jarman is a social media coordinator at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.