20th Anniversary Celebration

20th Anniversary Celebration Committee

20 Things You Might Not Know

20 Things You Can Do

Where are they now?

History of the Pro Bono Program

For the Good of the Order

Pro Bono Program

Where are they now?

Wilda Cobb

What firm/organization are you working with now?
United States Environmental Protection Agency

What kind of pro bono or volunteer work have you been involved in?
Over the past 20 years I have volunteered at the Chastain Park Sables working in the Therapeutic Riding Program where I work with children with physical disabilities. I have worked with the Upper Chattahoochee River Keepers in their efforts to clean up the Chattahoochee River. I am a member of a volunteer group that works with first responders in emergencies. I spent several months in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

What are the main reasons why you would recommend that law students become involved in pro bono work?
Perspective, self confidence and a feeling of self worth. For the law student who goes to law school to become a Lawyer (with the capital L) the one who sees the gold and glory - doing pro bono work can give them some perspective on what is important and make them better lawyers and people. The students who go to law school that already have the sense that they want to help others and make the world a better place; for these students making the best grades and wowing the professors is not the means to their end, therefore they may not be the top of the class and could lose their confidence. The pro bono program helps them keep their perspective and provides them the self confidence and a feeling of self worth.

How would you encourage current law students to get involved with the Pro Bono program?
By providing a variety of opportunities, making it easy to get involved and by rewarding them. Everyone likes to be recognized for what they do.

Has pro bono work contributed to your sense of career satisfaction?
I am very fortunate that my career is just what I wanted. Not the being a lawyer part but the protecting the environment part. I feel like I do my job like it is pro bono. In my job I make choices that do not always endear me to management or the politics of the Agency but I do my best to always make the best choice for the environment. And doing pro bono work has given me the confidence and courage to take the action that may not make upper management happy or further my career but is the right thing to do.

Did your experiences in the Pro Bono program at USC prepare you or benefit you in your career?
Yes, it provided me with practical experience and confidence.

In your career, have you seen an overlap between your volunteer work and your sense of your own place in the community and the legal profession?

How do pro bono efforts fit in to the work of the South Carolina Bar?
I can't answer this as I am not a member of the South Carolina Bar.

What kind of perceptions, positive or negative, do you think that the bar as a whole has about attorneys who are actively involved in pro bono work?
I think generally that attorneys involved in pro bono work are well respected and admired by other attorneys.

What is most memorable/best experience you had during your law school career through the Pro Bono program?
I helped a lady get her Social Security disability payments. The Agency had denied her benefits and she could not afford an attorney to help with her appeal. She came to us through the Administrative Law Clinic. I helped her prepare her appeal. She could hardly read or write and was terrified at the prospect of going to a hearing. I went with her to her hearing. The hearing was in a small courtroom and there was an attorney representing the Social Security Agency. The lady was confused and intimidated by the process and did not understand what the attorney was asking her. Finally, I stood up and just started arguing the lady's case. When I caught myself I apologized to the Judge. The Judge smiled and said well if counsel for the Agency is not going to object to your testifying why should I. A few weeks later the lady called me she had gotten her benefits; she told me I saved her life.

What does the 20th Anniversary of the Pro Bono program mean to you?
This image remains with me today. It was at the hooding ceremony for our graduating class; I graduated in 1991. The Pro Bono Program had just been awarded the 444th Point of Light award. The President of the University recognized the Pro Bono Program for getting the award and asked that all the students involved in the Program stand up. There were about 180 graduating students and when I looked around and there were only 4 or 5 people standing. The President kept looking at us as if he were waiting for others to stand. I am sure he was thinking that for such a prestigious award more students must be involved. But there weren't. We were a small group who did a lot of work. This 20th Anniversary means a lot to me personally, while it is Pam Robinson's hard work and energy that has kept the program alive, I like to think I helped to give it birth. And although I have not been there to help raise the child I am proud and amazed at all it has accomplished.

What is your most cherished memory with Pam?
It is hard to choose. While Crabbing at Litchfield Beach with Pam and her dad was the most fun there was a drive to Buford SC that was the most profound. I don't know if Pam will remember this. We were going to Buford SC to interview this attorney. He was, at the time, one of oldest living graduates of the SC Law School. I don't remember what the interview was for but what I do remember are the secrets Pam and I shared on that ride to Buford. I won't repeat the stories Pam and I told but that day I understood what an amazing, unique, caring and courageous person Pam Robinson was and how lucky I was to be part of her life and that of the SC Pro Bono Program. Congratulations Pam.