Author: Sean Driscoll

WILMINGTON—The New Hanover County Bar Association and Legal Aid of North Carolina honored 23 local attorneys for their pro bono service to clients of our Wilmington office from 2020-2022. The attorneys were honored at the bar association’s luncheon in Wilmington on February 21. The list of honorees is below.

Ashley M. Coghill, an attorney in the Wilmington office of Cranfill Sumner LLP, received the Addison Hewlett Jr. Award for Exemplary Pro Bono Service in 2020-2022. Her name will be placed on a plaque on the wall next to the elevators in the New Hanover County Courthouse with previous recipients of the award.

Addison Hewlett Jr. was a Wilmington attorney who served as president of the New Hanover County Bar Association in 1948. To honor Hewlett’s work serving those in need, the award is given to an attorney who serves the community with selfless dedication to promoting equal justice for the disadvantaged in New Hanover County.

Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Wilmington office provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties. If you are an attorney interested in providing pro bono service to clients of our Wilmington office, please visit or contact Richard Klein, regional manager of our southeast region, at

New Hanover County pro bono honorees

  • Gina D. Cecil
  • Ashley M. Coghill
  • Kathleen L. Eaton
  • Christian B. Felden
  • William C. Hurley
  • Paula A. Kohut
  • Steven M. Laird
  • Andrew Lanier
  • Aaron D. Lindquist
  • Kevin L. Littlejohn II
  • Emily A. McNamara
  • Sara A. Miller
  • Sarah E. Morin-Gage
  • Ryan H. Niland
  • Celecia M. Phillips
  • Emily Jones Queen
  • Anne J. Randall
  • Jennifer M. Roden
  • Jennifer D. Scott
  • James L. Seay, III
  • Kristina F. Smith
  • Kimberly Baxley Smithwick
  • Sandra D. Watts

Are you an attorney who wants to be a pro bono hero for North Carolinians in need? To learn more about our programs and join us on our mission for justice, visit Want to stay in the pro bono loop? Join our email list or follow #LANCprobono on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Author: Sean Driscoll

CHARLOTTE—Over pizzas and salad from a nearby restaurant, a group of Honeywell lawyers and paralegals spent a recent lunch hour providing pro bono legal advice to Legal Aid of North Carolina clients struggling with serious housing-conditions issues.

Hosted by the multi-national manufacturing and technology corporation in its technologically advanced Charlotte headquarters—the company is shaping the future, solving the world’s toughest challenges by inventing and manufacturing technologies linked to global macrotrends such as safety, security, and sustainability—the January 25 event was part of our Lawyer on the Line pro bono program, which recruits private attorneys to provide free legal advice to clients over the phone.

Dawn Savarese, Assistant General Counsel at Honeywell, and Larissa Mañon Mervin, a Charlotte-based supervising attorney on our statewide Pro Bono Programs team, organized the event.

“The Honeywell team is beyond grateful for the opportunity to participate in Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Lawyer on the Line program,” Dawn added. “The impact we can make in our community is so very gratifying, and working with Larissa and the knowledgeable and professional team at Legal Aid is a gift, not to mention incredibly fun. We are ready for the next one!”

“Dawn was the real driving force here,” Larissa said. “She’s a true pro bono champion. She wants to make sure her colleagues have accessible and meaningful pro bono opportunities. She worked hard to bring us all together and ensure everything ran smoothly the day of—she even picked up the pizza! I wasn’t surprised when she reached out a few days after the event to start planning the next one.”

Larissa was joined at the event by seasoned Legal Aid NC housing attorneys O’Shauna Hunter, head of our Charlotte office’s housing unit; Nicole Mueller, who shares her time as a supervising attorney on our Pro Bono Programs team and Disaster Relief Project; and Isaac Sturgill, head of our statewide housing practice group. The housing attorneys served as subject-matter consultants for the volunteers, who were advising tenants living in unsanitary or unsafe conditions.

Honeywell paralegal Naundra Taylor spoke with a client whose landlord refused to repair the collapsed floor in her hallway—a major safety hazard to her young child. Naundra advised the client about communicating with her landlord in a way that would allow her to make her case effectively in court (if it came to that) and what to do if the landlord tried to evict her—a common occurrence for tenants who complain to their landlords about housing conditions.

“It was wonderful!” Naundra said of her first-time experience handling a pro bono case for Legal Aid of North Carolina. “I’m ready for my next case!”

Daniela Tijerina, director of the company’s Integrity and Compliance division, also enjoyed her first pro bono experience with Legal Aid NC.

“I feel accomplished for my day,” she said. “Just knowing that someone now has a path forward makes me feel good. I would love to do this more!”

Brendan Clark, a Senior Contracts Representative at Honeywell, felt a personal connection to the work.

“As someone who grew up in an impoverished community where housing issues were commonplace,” said Brendan, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and the Blackfoot Nation, “it was a tremendous honor to be able to provide assistance to someone who was in a similar unfortunate situation as many of my friends and family members. Many tenants fall prey to predatory landlords who use their power to negligently harm and/or discriminate against the very people they should be caring for. Lawyer on the Line plays a critical role in fighting back and I was happy to play a small role in this charge.”

Kris Pickler, general counsel for Honeywell’s Global Real Estate division, addressed the fears that some corporate attorneys might have about pro bono work.

“Some in-house counsel may not feel that they have the skills needed or time available to do pro bono,” he said. “Skills and time don’t need to be a barrier. Legal Aid has wonderful staff and online and in-person training resources to help you learn new subject matter. They have pro bono opportunities with variable time commitments so you can help those in need based on your availability.”

“Jump in and give it a go,” he said. “It is extremely rewarding.”

Other Honeywell lawyers who volunteered at the event:

  • Aparana Jaiswal, Senior Contracts Representative
  • Annie Matonis, Senior Contracts Representative
  • Will Munnerlyn, Deputy IP Counsel, Honeywell Safety & Productivity Solutions
  • Jeremy Whitley, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, Honeywell Safety & Productivity Solutions
  • Darryl Wilson, Assistant General Counsel

Are you an attorney who wants to be a pro bono hero for North Carolinians in need? To learn more about our programs and join us on our mission for justice, visit Want to stay in the pro bono loop? Join our email list or follow #LANCprobono on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Author: Sean Driscoll

High stakes in small claims court

Photo of McGuireWoods attorney Dylan Bensinger.

The McGuireWoods website describes Dylan Bensinger, an attorney in its Charlotte office, as a “high-stakes commercial litigator.” At first glance, a residential eviction case might seem worlds away from his typical work—but Dylan doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s definitely not the kind of commercial litigation that I do most days,” said Dylan, who recently won an eviction case for us pro bono, “but the case was certainly high stakes for the client. He was at risk of losing where he lived. That would be pretty high stakes for anyone.”

Our client’s troubles started in 2021 when, amidst the economic chaos wrought by the pandemic, he could no longer afford to pay his rent in full. Thankfully, the nationwide eviction moratorium then in place saved him from being put out on the street.

By the spring of 2022, however, when our client came to Legal Aid NC for help, the moratorium had expired, he owed thousands in back rent, his landlord wanted him out, and he had just lost his eviction hearing in small claims court.

Thankfully, his situation wasn’t hopeless. For one, unlike many Legal Aid NC clients, he knew he had the right to appeal the court’s ruling. Even more unusual, he successfully filed the paperwork himself. He also understood that he needed real legal help to actually win his appeal—and he knew to come to us for that help.

While eviction cases are bread and butter for our staff attorneys—housing is either our largest or second-largest practice area, depending on the year—the need for legal help in this area is so great that we rely on pro bono volunteers to help meet the demand.

Dylan came to us by way of the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership, a project launched in 2018 by pro bono leaders from the Queen City’s most prominent companies and law firms, including McGuireWoods. Partnership organizations work with our Charlotte office and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to identify and tackle Charlotte residents’ most pressing legal needs, which include eviction.

Through Charlotte Triage, Dylan learned about our pro bono programs and connected with O’Shauna Hunter, the head of the housing unit in our Charlotte office. When Dylan’s client came to our Charlotte office for help, Dylan agreed to take the case—his first pro bono housing case ever.

Dylan dove in headfirst, consulting with his client and studying North Carolina landlord-tenant law. He even went to small claims court to watch the eviction process in action.

“I was immediately struck by how few people showed up with attorneys,” Dylan said. “It seems like almost no one who goes through this process has a lawyer. It was also obvious how big a difference having counsel makes in the process. Without O’Shauna and me in our client’s corner, I think the outcome would have been very different for him.”

Throughout the case, O’Shauna served as Dylan’s mentor, consulting with him about housing law, case strategy, client communication and anything else he wanted to discuss.

“This being my first housing case, I would have been more apprehensive if I had been thrown into the fire completely on my own,” Dylan said. “It was great to have O’Shauna on my side. She was a huge help to me and was instrumental in successfully resolving this case. Everyone I know who has worked with Legal Aid NC attorneys, like O’Shauna, is very grateful for their help, so thank you to O’Shauna and her colleagues.”

“Dylan really went above and beyond to ensure that he knew the law and was pursuing the strategy that would be most beneficial to his client,” O’Shauna said. “The impressive outcome he achieved is testament to his dedication in this case.”

In fall 2022, after spending tens of hours over the course of the preceding months working on the case, Dylan and his client’s landlord reached a settlement agreement that left our client in a better position than he could have hoped for without legal representation.

As part of the settlement, the landlord agreed to vacate the small claims judgment against Dylan’s client, waive the thousands of dollars in back rent and provide a neutral landlord reference going forward. While Dylan’s client did have to find a new home as part of the agreement—he was able to move in with family while he looked for a new place of his own—the importance of the outcome cannot be overstated.

“I think it was a great outcome,” Dylan said. “We didn’t go to court and win, but the result is a big win for the client, who was looking at an eviction and a lot of back rent that he owed to his landlord. We were able to negotiate a settlement that wiped away all of that to the extent that it was possible. From what I understand, everything is going well for him so far. He walked away with as much of a clean sheet as he could.”

While this was Dylan’s first pro bono housing case, it definitely won’t be his last.

“There are people at my firm who are really dedicated to pro bono service. Angie Zimmern and Mark Kinghorn here in our Charlotte office”—Angie is the firm’s Pro Bono Director and Mark is a member of the Charlotte Triage housing and eviction team—”are very good at getting people involved and are always coming up with new pro bono opportunities. I hope to develop a similar reputation for dedication to pro bono.”

Here at Legal Aid NC, we have no doubt that he will.

About Dylan

  • Associate, McGuireWoods, Charlotte, 2021-Present
  • Clerk, US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Charlotte, 2020-2021
  • Clerk, US District Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles, 2018-2020
  • Associate, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Los Angeles, 2017-2018
  • JD, Magna Cum Laude, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., 2017
  • BA, Journalism and English, University of Miami, 2013
  • Native of Los Angeles, California

Are you an attorney who wants to be a pro bono hero for North Carolinians in need? To learn more about our programs and sign up to join our mission for justice, visit our Pro Bono page. Want to stay in the loop on all things pro bono? Join our email list or follow #LANCprobono on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Author: Sean Driscoll

Happy Pro Bono Week, y’all! Started in 2009 by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, the National Celebration of Pro Bono, held over the course of a week every October, is a time to raise awareness of the need for pro bono service, celebrate the contributions of current volunteers and inspire the participation of new ones. Learn more at

Legal Aid of North Carolina is celebrating Pro Bono Week by launching a pro bono recruitment campaign that will run through the end of the year. Our Pro Bono team has spent the better part of 2022 reimagining, redesigning and refreshing our pro bono programs to meet the most critical needs of our clients while making pro bono more convenient, rewarding, flexible—and fun!—for our volunteers.

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Want to learn more?

Visit the Pro Bono section of our website to learn about our programs, meet our team, and fill out our Pro Bono Interest Form.

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Want to stay in the loop?

Join our Pro Bono email list to get the latest news about our programs, partner organizations, volunteers and more.

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Ready to sign up?

Fill out our Pro Bono Interest Form to tell us about yourself, your experience, and what you’re interested in doing. The form only takes a few minutes to complete.

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Check out the latest from our Pro Bono team!

New website, new pro bono content

Legal Aid of North Carolina has launched a new website, and it’s chock full of fresh content about our pro bono programs. 

Learn more

Ashley Campbell, Lawyer on the Line 

Our new CEO, Ashley Campbell, one of our most dedicated pro bono volunteers while in private practice, handled her own Lawyer on the Line call to promote our flagship pro bono program, which connects clients with pro bono attorneys who provide legal advice over the phone. 

Learn more

Cadwalader Pro Bono Fair 

Erin Haygood, our Director of Pro Bono Programs, attended the Pro Bono Fair hosted by Cadwalader in its Charlotte office. The theme of the event was “Get Your Piece of the Pro Bono Pie!” and attendees were treated to a delicious assortment of mini pies.

Learn more

Fall Break Pro Bono with Duke Law 

Duke Law students spent their fall break volunteering with the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program (DEAR), a joint effort of Legal Aid of North Carolina and other Durham organizations. 

Learn more

Truist, Womble Expunction Project 

Corporate Counsel spotlighted our criminal record expunction project with Truist and Womble Bond Dickinson. 

Learn more

Duke Law, NC Central Law team up for Legal Aid 

Students from the Bull City’s two law schools teamed up to represent Legal Aid clients through our Lawyer on the Line program during a virtual pro bono clinic. 

Learn more

5th Annual Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership Event 

Our staff played a big part in the event, which  brings together all sectors of the city’s legal community to address the critical legal needs of Charlotte’s most vulnerable residents. 

Learn more

Author: Sean Driscoll

Collage of headshots
Top (left to right): D.J. Dore, Director of Pro Bono, Duke Law; Lakethia Jefferies, Director of the Pro Bono Legal Clinic, NCCU Law; Charles Holton, Director of Duke Law’s Civil Justice Clinic. Bottom (left to right): NCCU Law student James Whitaker; Duke Law student Zoe Terner; NCCU Law student Itzy Wallace; Duke Law student Tori Simon.

With the city soaked and wind-whipped by Hurricane Ian, 20 students from Durham’s two law schools, Duke Law and NCCU School of Law, gathered on Zoom September 30 to provide free legal help to Legal Aid clients confronting housing-condition problems.

Organized by D.J. Dore, Director of Pro Bono for Duke Law, and Lakethia Jefferies, Director of the Pro Bono Legal Clinic at NCCU Law, the event was part of Legal Aid’s Lawyer on the Line pro bono program, which connects clients with relatively simple legal problems to lawyers—or law students working under their supervision—who provide legal advice and brief services over the phone.

The students arrived to the event with a training session under their belt, a case file in their hand, an expectant client awaiting their call, and an eagerness to make a real difference in our clients’ lives. The students called their clients, listened to their stories, asked questions, gave the legal advice they were authorized to give, and paused to consult with a supervising attorney if questions or other issues arose. After their calls, the students drafted follow-up letters to the clients summarizing their problem and detailing the advice provided to them.

Housing-condition cases involve clients confronting serious problems in their home. Our clients come to us for help with dangerous and degrading situations, including pervasive mold, backed-up sewage lines and other similarly serious issues. Worse yet, housing-condition problems can lead to eviction, either due to landlord retaliation in response to tenant complaints, or due to clients withholding rent to force their landlord’s hand. The latter tactic generally puts tenants on the wrong side of state housing law, giving the landlord grounds to file for eviction.

“This was a great opportunity to assist those in need,” said James Whitaker, a second-year student at NCCU Law. “There are individuals within our society whose humanity is under attack due to deplorable living conditions. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to assist those seeking adequate housing conditions.”

“This was my first ever client interaction!” said Zoe Terner, a first-year student at Duke Law. “It was such an incredible reminder of why I decided to go to law school in the first place, and a great experience to learn more about the crucial work of Legal Aid of North Carolina.”

“My client was struggling to get her landlord to fix issues in her home that were damaging her health,” said Itzy Wallace, a first-year student at NCCU Law. “More than anything, it seemed that my client wanted reassurance that her concerns were valid and that she still had agency in the situation. Experiencing the level of trust that a client places in their lawyer (or law student, in my case) is a great reminder of why I chose to become a lawyer.”

“I really enjoyed participating in the Lawyer on the Line event!” said Tori Simon, a second-year student at Duke Law. “It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Legal Aid attorneys and connect with clients. I hope to participate in more LOTL events in the future and continue to learn how law students can support North Carolina residents.”

Special thanks to Charles Holton, Director of Duke Law’s Civil Justice Clinic, Duke Law alum and former chair of our board of directors, who served as a supervising attorney for the event, making himself available to consult with the students for the entire event.

Other supervising attorneys were Duke’s D.J. Dore; NCCU’s Lakethia Jefferies; Erin Haygood, Director of Pro Bono Programs at Legal Aid; Nicole Mueller, Supervising Attorney on Legal Aid’s Pro Bono Programs team; and Katie Barkley, staff attorney in Legal Aid’s Pittsboro office. Legal Aid case coordinators Cierra Baker, Jill Bridges, Sarah Moore and Shameka Joseph screened the clients and prepared the case files for the students.

To learn more about Lawyer on the Line and our other pro bono programs, visit the Pro Bono section of our website.

Author: Sean Driscoll

Image source: McGuireWoods

Yesterday’s fifth annual Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership event was a huge success. Attorneys and leaders from corporations, law firms, legal aid groups and other public-interest organizations gathered together to further strengthen this partnership, which brings together all sectors of the city’s legal community to address the critical legal needs of Charlotte’s most vulnerable residents.

We would like to extend special thanks to the leaders of the partnership:

  • Bank of America
  • Duke Energy
  • Husqvarna
  • McGuireWoods
  • Moore & Van Allen
  • Wells Fargo

And to our partners on the housing/eviction team:

  • Greg Volk from Bank of America
  • Mark Kinghorn from McGuireWoods
  • Nader Raja from Moore & Van Allen
  • Paul Osowski from Nelson Mullins

Ashley Campbell, CEO of Legal Aid of North Carolina, was a speaker at the event. Other speakers were:

  • Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Duke Energy
  • Kieth Cockrell, President, Bank of America Charlotte
  • Mark K. Metz, Deputy General Counsel, Wells Fargo
  • Toussaint Romain, CEO, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

O’Shauna Hunter, head of our Charlotte office’s housing unit, and Casey Burke, joint pro bono coordinator for our Charlotte office and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, are members of the Charlotte Triage Task Force. Other members are:

  • Sarah Byrne, Senior Counsel, Moore & Van Allen
  • Alex Castle, Deputy General Counsel, Duke Energy
  • John Grupp, VP Americas, Deputy General Counsel, Arrival
  • Stephanie Gryder, Senior Manager of Diversity & Community Initiatives, Moore & Van Allen
  • Mandy Schuller, Legal Department, Wells Fargo
  • Todd Stillerman, Associate General Counsel, Wells Fargo
  • Joanna Wade, Associate General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Bank of America
  • Angie Zimmern, Counsel and Pro Bono Director, McGuireWoods

Isaac Sturgill, head of our Housing Practice Group, and Thomas Holderness, supervising attorney in our Charlotte office’s housing unit, prepared a virtual CLE program on representing tenants facing eviction, which was screened at the event.

To learn more, visit