Take a Pro Bono Case and Gain Experience

Read this inspiring article written by Africa Sanchez published in the bar journal Communiqué (Mar. 2024)

By Africa Sanchez

Last year, I worked with a UNLV Boyd School of Law student through Legal Aid of Southern Nevada’s Partners in Pro Bono Program. This program is a collaboration with Boyd and Legal Aid Center, which partners up attorneys and law students to work on a pro bono matter. To my surprise, the law student was interested in taking a criminal case.

Since my practice focuses primarily on family and immigration law, I was not quite ready to take on criminal matters. Legal Aid Center was helpful, offering to provide samples or other resources should I need them for the criminal record sealing case.

Two clients needed criminal bench warrants cleared and, ultimately, their records sealed.

The clients, although very different, shared a similar story, as they were both victims of human trafficking. Their pimps and “supposed boyfriends” flew them to Las Vegas to work as prostitutes, and then all would return to their home states a few weeks later. During their short stay in Las Vegas, over ten years ago, they incurred several criminal charges, including trespass, soliciting prostitution, and disturbing the peace.

The two women eventually broke away from their traffickers and found jobs. One became a security guard and is raising a child she had with her pimp, and the other went to school and received her nursing degree. The latter could not obtain her nursing license because of the outstanding bench warrants from Las Vegas. After speaking with our clients on multiple occasions, the law student and I were impacted by their stories of all they had overcome and the lives they had made for themselves.

The first task was to find all the criminal cases and file motions to quash the bench warrants. True to their word, Legal Aid Center provided sample forms. The UNLV law student assisted in drafting the motions we filed. Then, it was time to explain the circumstances to the deputy district attorneys and seek dismissal of these charges. Upon demonstrating to the deputy district attorneys that the clients were not residents of Las Vegas and had gainful employment, the deputy district attorneys agreed to dismiss the charges.

The final step was to seal the records so these women could get a fresh start and better employment opportunities. I am grateful for all the help I received from the law student and Legal Aid Center. Without them, I would not have had the opportunity to assist these clients. Attorneys, do not be scared to take on pro bono work in an area of law that you have limited experience in; it may surprise you how rewarding it is.

About the author

Africa Sanchez has been practicing in Las Vegas over twenty years. Her practice now focuses on immigration, family and education law.

About the article

© 2024 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.

This article was originally published in the Communiqué (Mar. 2024), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2024/communique-mar-2024/.

The articles and advertisements appearing in Communiqué magazine do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the CCBA, the CCBA Publications Committee, the editorial board, or the other authors. All legal and other issues discussed are not for the purpose of answering specific legal questions. Attorneys and others are strongly advised to independently research all issues.

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