RALEIGH — Today we announce the inaugural winners of our new, annual Pro Bono Hero Awards. The awards recognize pro bono service that we hope serves as an inspiring example to the NC legal community. They also celebrate the diversity of both the forms of service from which our clients and organization benefit and of the volunteers themselves.
We will present the awards today at a lunchtime ceremony held during the first day of our two-day Statewide Summit, a training and networking event for our staff, partners and supporters. The event will take place at the Friday Conference Center in Chapel Hill.
“The value of the pro bono service and support provided by legal professionals to Legal Aid of North Carolina and our clients is incalculably high,” said Allison Constance, Director of Pro Bono Programs.
“The amount and quality of the direct pro bono services to our clients is especially valuable and impressive,” Constance continued, “though our organization also reaps huge benefits from other forms of service, including serving on our Board of Directors and other consultative bodies, sharing legal expertise with our practitioners, and championing our pro bono programs throughout the private bar.”
“We hope our Pro Bono Heroes feel even half as honored to receive this recognition as we do to count them among our supporters and friends,” Constance concluded.
We honor Wells Fargo for:
- Cofounding and co-leading the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership;
- The service of attorney Todd Stillerman as a member of the Charlotte Triage Task Force, the partnership’s leadership body, and his individual pro bono service to our housing clients in Charlotte;
- The company’s commitment to host recurring Lawyer on the Line clinics
under the leadership of attorney Glenn Huether;
- The Wells Fargo Foundation’s support of our Heir Property Pro Bono Project; and
- The service of attorney Gonzalo Frias as immediate-past Chair of our Board of Directors.
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP
We honor Nelson Mullins for:
- Their attorneys’ service to our Charlotte office’s housing clients through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership, especially the service of attorney Paul Osowski as a champion of the housing practice area;
- The steadfast service of attorney Lorin Lapidus in support of our appellate advocacy;
- The extraordinary and successful service of attorneys Paul Osowski and David Blue to a client seeking to recover a security deposit; and
- Attorney Jeff Kelly, who is a champion of access to justice in the national and NC legal communities, who serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of our new Innovation Lab, and who is a member of our Board of Directors.
Randolph County Domestic Violence Pro Bono Team
We honor Thomas D. Robins, Margaret J. Megerian, Chelsie L. Embler and Nicholas Patrick (pictured clockwise) for their extraordinary service to domestic violence survivors in Randolph County. For years, the attorneys have worked on a rotating weekly basis to take domestic violence cases to court for our Greensboro office. Once, when the team was without a few members, Tom and Margaret continued taking all the cases to court. Tom is also a member of our Greensboro office’s Local Advisory Council, a group of supporters that informs the office’s advocacy and raises awareness of its services among the client and legal communities.
Evonne Sammartino Hopkins
We honor Evonne Hopkins for her steadfast, skilled, and ongoing service to clients of The Child’s Advocate and her other support of the project, which represents children in high-conflict custody cases in Wake and Durham counties. Evonne, President of the Raleigh Law Center, has spent more than 130 hours representing six children in three different cases, two of which involved physical and emotional abuse of the children. She has also helped with the project’s annual training and written detailed letters of support for the project’s grant applications.
Thomas E. Fulghum
We honor Tom Fulghum for his years of pro bono service to clients of our Immigration Pathways for Victims (IMMPAV) project. Tom, a sole practitioner in Durham, was for many years the project’s go-to, never-says-no pro bono volunteer for U Visa cases. U Visas provide immigration relief to victims of qualifying crimes who have helped law enforcement investigate or prosecute criminal activity. U Visa cases are complex and can last years. Tom also helped lead a CLE for pro bono attorneys about U Visa adjustment cases, which involve U Visa holders seeking green cards. Most recently, he took a T Visa/removal defense case from IMMPAV to assist a survivor of human trafficking.
Ashlee B. Poplin
We honor Ashlee Poplin for her dedicated and proactive service to domestic violence clients of our Charlotte office. An attorney in the Charlotte office of Adams and Reese LLP, Ashlee contacted our staff in 2022 to inquire about providing pro bono service to domestic violence survivors. She currently handles nearly all the office’s cases involving renewals of Domestic Violence Protective Orders — and she fiercely protects the rights of every survivor. Ashlee serves as a champion of the domestic violence practice area for the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership, a role which involves recruiting other attorneys to serve survivors.
Paul R. Kinny
We honor Paul Kinny for his years of extraordinary and dedicated service to our housing clients in Charlotte. For the past few years, Paul, a retired Duke Energy lawyer, has taken on a full housing caseload from May to August, providing hundreds of hours of pro bono service to Charlotte residents. Paul also serves on our Charlotte office’s Local Advisory Council, a group of supporters that informs the office’s advocacy and raises awareness of its services among the client and legal communities.
Desirae C. Williams
We honor Desirae Williams for her extraordinary service to a New Hanover County client whose landlord withheld the client’s security deposit under false pretenses. Desirae, an attorney in Robinson Bradshaw’s Charlotte office, accepted the case in September 2022, the same month she was admitted to practice in North Carolina. Desirae devoted 30 hours to the case, which lasted nearly a year. Her service included exerting a Herculean effort to try to serve her client’s landlord and traveling to Wilmington for a court hearing.
To learn more about our pro bono programs, visit legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.
Awards ceremony photo gallery
Tom Fulghum, Paul Kinny and Representatives from Wells Fargo were unable to attend the ceremony.