Blue Devil of the Week: The Pro Bono Connection to Community

Kim Burrucker oversees student pro bono work for Duke University School of Law

Kim Burrucker has gone hang-gliding, skydived, and zip lined.
Kim Burrucker has gone hang-gliding, skydived, and zip lined. Photo courtesy of Kim Burrucker.

Name: Kim Burrucker 

Title: Director of the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono, Duke University School of Law 

Years at Duke: 15 

What she does at Duke: Tax season is Burrucker’s busiest time of year and exemplifies what her work is all about.

During the tax season, Burrucker oversees the organization of “Volunteer Income Tax Assistance,” or VITA. This year, VITA assisted about 500 clients, who include Duke employees, with preparing income tax returns. 

As the liaison between Duke students and about 20 community partners, Burrucker finds opportunities for pro bono work, or legal assistance without charge, for Duke Law students to work with licensed attorneys. Of the 300 or so students that graduated this year, about 178 have completed more than 50 hours of pro bono work. 

“My job is not relaxing. It is exhilarating and usually a lot of fun,” Burrucker said. “You really see the compassion people have for one another and the community.”

Burrucker has connected students to work in providing power of attorney to patients in the Duke Cancer Center and assisting in the creation of Opioid Crisis House Bill 243, which intends to reduce the supply of opioids in North Carolina. 

“Many people cannot afford legal representation,” Burrucker said. “It is a lawyer’s duty to share their particular skill set with those who can’t defend themselves. “

What she loves about Duke: Every time Burrucker has friends and family visiting from out of town she takes them to Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

One of the most meaningful visits happened a few weeks before Burrucker’s mother-in-law passed in 2004. 

“My husband and I put her in a wheel chair and she loved seeing every part of the gardens,” Burrucker said. “Even when she was getting a bit tired, she wanted to keep going and see every corner.”

Burrucker with Duke Law students at the Public Interest and Pro Bono Recognition DinnerMemorable day at work: Every year, Burrucker organizes the Public Interest and Pro Bono Recognition Dinner, which honors graduating students who have participated in the Duke Law Pro Bono Project. Many of the students have done at least 50 hours of pro bono work. 

“I have students who care so deeply about doing pro-bono work,” Burrucker said. “They really take the opportunity to give back to Durham.” 

Most important object in her work place: Next to photos of Burrucker’s grandchildren is a Certificate of Commendation she received in 2013 from the United States Marine Corps for her work with veterans. 

For about six years, Burrucker helped organize Bull City Stand Down, a one-day event that provides food, showers, legal resources, health care screenings and other services to homeless veterans. 

“This was an astounding honor,” she said.   

First ever job:  Burrucker worked on the custodial staff for Cleveland Public Schools when she was 14 years old.  She took invoices and assigned service calls to custodians.

“I was the youngest of five children and all my siblings called me bossy,” Burrucker said. “I called it orgaznied.”

Best advice received: Don’t sweat the small stuff. She put this into practice this spring when her car tire gave out on the interstate.

“I could have sat in my car and gotten upset,” she said. “I didn’t roll over. I didn’t get stranded. No one was injured. I just had to buy a new tire.”

Fun Fact:  Despite claiming she’s afraid of heights, Burrucker has gone hang-gliding, skydived, and zip lined.  

“It’s so funny when I go ziplining,” she said. “Every time I get to a platform I’ll say ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this.’ Then, I’ll step off and all I can think about is how fun and beautiful the view is.”   

Nominate a colleague to be the next Blue Devil of the Week.