Student spotlight: 3L Michael Harmond stays true to his roots with pro bono work

By Shelby Jarman

When Michael Harmond began law school in 2016, he was leaving behind a five-year career in nonprofit organizations including the Boys & Girls Club of America and the Fair Credit Foundation.

“My background is in nonprofits, and when I came to law school, I didn’t want to lose that part of me,” Harmond said. “I wanted to find a way to stay true to those roots. So I decided to volunteer as soon as I could, to keep one foot in that sector.”

Harmond began volunteering with the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative during his first year at law school. He currently serves as student director of PBI’s Debtors’ Legal Clinic.

“The Debtors’ Clinic is very important,” Harmond said. “The overwhelming majority of debt collection cases are brought by professional debt collectors against unrepresented, everyday people who can’t afford a lawyer. Debtors Clinic is a place for those people to come and get some advice and figure out what their options are.”

S.J. Quinney College of Law student Michael Harmond.

Harmond has volunteered more than 100 hours and counting, according to JoLynn Spruance, director of the Pro Bono Initiative. He was among those honored recently for his contributions during Utah Celebrates Pro Bono Week.

“Mike has great leadership skills and his ability to manage a clinic has been outstanding,” Spruance said. “He truly believes in assisting the underserved in our community.”

Besides being a great way to help people and gain leadership experience, Harmond said that participating in pro bono work is one of the best ways to build a network. He’s developed relationships with attorneys, community members, and even classmates that he wouldn’t have if he didn’t spend time doing pro bono work.

Harmond is a big advocate of networking because it helped him land not only a summer job, but a permanent position at Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar, a law firm located in downtown Salt Lake City. He’ll begin working at the firm full time after he graduates in May of 2019.

Harmond encourages all law students to make time for pro bono work.

“There are a lot of demands in law school, and you can end up doing a lot of things that aren’t good uses of your time,” Harmond said. “But I have never regretted spending the time to go to a pro bono clinic.” 

Shelby Jarman is social media coordinator at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.