A Service Ethic Shaped by Hurricane:
2009 Law Graduate Jordan Taylor
Written by Donna Emert
On his first day of law school at the University of Idaho, Jordan Taylor showed up in the requisite shirt and tie, ready to roll up his sleeves. By spring break, he was in New Orleans, La., ankle deep in mud and elbow deep in paperwork.
In New Orleans, he found whole communities housed in FEMA trailers. Taylor and others went door-to-door, providing free legal aid to victims of hurricane Katrina.
The following spring, he was in Biloxi, Miss., doing it again.
“Pro bono made me feel like a lawyer much sooner than I would have without it,” Taylor said. “It has made me a more compassionate person. Without actually going into poor areas, it’s impossible to have any kind of perspective on what it is really like.”
Taylor and others law students helped victims secure and maintain FEMA benefits and deal with foreclosures, landlord tenant disputes and insurance disputes, and helped investigate claims of contractor fraud. On his second trip, Taylor reviewed capital penalty cases for inmates, worked in the Civil Rights Education Program in local high schools, and helped establish the college’s Tenants’ Rights Clinic.
Taylor logged more than 430 hours of free legal service. And those are just the hours he actually tallied.
Jordan Taylor is among the first graduating class to have fulfilled 40 hours of pro bono service as a requirement for an Idaho juris doctorate. The Idaho State Bar honored Taylor’s exceptional efforts with the Denise O’Donnell Day Pro Bono Award. He is the first student ever to receive it.
“Everybody is always so amazed at the numbers,” he said of his service. “Honestly it was fun, and didn’t seem like that many hours or much of a burden at all.”
Professor Jack McMahon, former Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Idaho and a former Idaho State Bar President, directs the College of Law’s pro bono program. He has felt the reverberations of Taylor’s impact even among his professional peers.
“While attending national conferences, I kept running into lawyers from legal aid associations in Louisiana and Mississippi who would ask if I knew Jordan Taylor,” said McMahon. “It’s just incredible, and gratifying, to find that a student’s reputation is what the University of Idaho is most famous for.”
Taylor will receive a juris doctorate May 16.
“I think pro bono should be required, instead of just recommended, by all state bar associations. It’s that important,” Taylor said. “Many lawyers don’t realize just how powerful their tools are: a simple task for them can be a life changing event for someone in need.”