Meet the Interns who Help Farmers Keep Their Land
Legal interns work with families on heirs’ property issues
How did Charee Woodard and four of her fellow legal interns spend their summer internship? By helping farm families retain their land.
Woodard, a student at the Southern University Law Center, said she chose to become a LEAP Coalition intern because she has a passion for public interest work and wanted to help families overcome heirs’ property issues.
“Sometimes advocacy can be inviting your client into your office, closing the door and having a candid conversation where they can tell you, ‘This is what I’m battling with, this is my issue,’ and then you presenting them with a solution,” Woodard said. “It’s that behind-the-scenes advocacy that really had a huge impact on my experience.”
Heirs’ property is land jointly owned by descendants of someone who didn’t leave a legal will, thereby leaving them without a clear title. The land is passed to surviving family members by way of fractional ownership—meaning any heir can divide or sell the land. This is the leading cause of involuntary land loss among Black landowners.
Khalil Cardwell, who is also a Southern University Law Center student, said it was the personal interactions with the families, including visiting their farms, that made the experience impactful.
“Meeting the families, seeing their differences and backgrounds, seeing the property they own and how property was in their family’s name for generations, and we had the rewarding feeling of helping them get the property in their name so they can retain it,” Cardwell said.
This is the third year the LEAP Coalition has helped provide legal interns who work with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Center for Heirs Property Preservation to support families at risk of losing their land.