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First responders honored on 9/11 through pro bono 'Wills for Heroes' project

BYU Law and Utah State Bar Association partner to offer free services

Liz Thompson Wills for Heroes
Provo attorney and BYU Law Alumna Liz Thompson helped served in the Wills for Heroes event.

Roughly 120 local first responders were assisted in completing their basic estate planning documents, free of charge, as BYU Law sponsored it’s second Wills for Heroes project last week.

The pro bono legal work was done by more than 80 attorneys, including volunteers from the BYU Law Alumni Chapter and others, many of whom assisted several different first responders.

“We are all protected by heroes every day,” said BYU Law Dean Gordon Smith. “First responders prepare, serve, and sacrifice, consistently putting themselves in harm’s way for their neighbors and fellow citizens. We are honored to assist some of the many heroes who stand between us and some of life’s greatest tragedies.”

Employees at a Zion's Bank help notarize documents.

Faced with the challenges posed by COVID-19, the continuing partnership between the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the Utah State Bar Association almost doubled participation this year, thanks in large measure to the involvement of Hotdocs and Zions Bank.

“We were able to go completely remote, thanks to the Hotdocs software,” said Mike Middleton, BYU Law Dean of External Relations. “And Zions Bank made it possible for participants throughout the state to execute their documents at a branch located close to their home or work.”

In total, 26 different Zions Bank locations provided free notary services. While Wills for Heroes programs have been held across the country in about 30 states, this is among the first entirely remote programs in Wills for Heroes’ history.

“This is one of the largest groups in Utah that we’ve ever assisted, and definitely the most geographically widespread” said Grant Miller, President-elect of the Utah State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division. “We feel like we’ve used technology to circumnavigate the pandemic’s effects and to set a precedent that we believe will be duplicated here and across the country.”

BYU Law champions the idea that “law is a leadership degree.” The BYU Law School is grateful to its alums, and other Utah-licensed attorneys, for their generosity in giving their time and expertise to activities like this that build and enhance the community.

About Wills for Heroes

The Wills for Heroes program grew out of the aftermath of the tragic deaths of first responders in the horrific events that followed the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001, including several first responders who died without having the necessary legal documents in place to protect their loved ones and to direct estates.

About BYU Law School

Founded in 1971, the J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) has grown into one of the nation’s leading law schools — recognized for innovative research and teaching in social change, transactional design, entrepreneurship, corpus linguistics, criminal justice, and religious freedom. The Law School has more than 6,000 alumni serving in communities around the world. In its most recent rankings, SoFi ranked BYU Law as the #1 best-value U.S. law school in their 2017 Return on Education Law School Ranking. For more information, visit http://www.law.byu.edu/.

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