Author: Sean Driscoll

We ❤️ our pro bono volunteers! Raleigh attorney Peter Robinson recently helped a Robeson County resident expunge the only serious marks on her criminal record, a nearly 40-year-old nonviolent felony conviction and a dismissed misdemeanor charge. Peter’s service eliminated a major obstacle to his client’s ability to secure and maintain stable housing and employment.
 
Said Peter about his service: “I was proud to serve a Native American client and help her expunge her criminal record, which arose from her poverty and disadvantaged circumstances.”
 
When Peter isn’t handling expunctions for us, he represents defendants before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, a United Nations body with responsibilities related to the Rwandan genocide and the Yugoslav Wars.
 
Learn more about Peter at peterrobinson.com.

Author: Sean Driscoll

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.

Wells Fargo

We honor Wells Fargo for:

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.

Author: Sean Driscoll

RALEIGH — We are marking the start of the National Celebration of Pro Bono today by joining the NC Pro Bono Resource Center, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Pisgah Legal Services to launch Pro Bono Go, North Carolina’s new one-stop shop for pro bono opportunities.

Lawyers, paralegals and law students can browse opportunities from our organizations, sign up for opportunities in just a few clicks, and set up customized email alerts to get new opportunities delivered right to their inbox.

Read our joint press release below to learn more and visit Pro Bono Go today!


Pro Bono Go: North Carolina’s new one-stop shop for pro bono opportunities

Visit ProBonoGo.org to browse pro bono opportunities and set up customized email alerts

RALEIGH · October 23, 2023 — North Carolina’s civil justice community is kicking off this year’s National Celebration of Pro Bono by launching Pro Bono Go, a statewide platform for legal professionals seeking pro bono service that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of North Carolinians in need.

Created by the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center in partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services, Pro Bono Go is a new online clearinghouse of pro bono opportunities provided by the state’s leading civil legal aid and public-interest legal organizations.

“Lawyers and paralegals are busy,” Sylvia Novinsky, Director of the NC Pro Bono Resource Center, said. “The practice of law is a high-stakes, deadline-driven profession that demands more than its fair share of time from practitioners. Yet, North Carolina legal professionals have always made time for pro bono service. It’s the responsibility of organizations that need pro bono volunteers to meet them halfway. We need to make it as quick and easy as possible for volunteers to learn about and sign up for our pro bono opportunities.”

Pro Bono Go does exactly that,” Novinsky continued. “It’s a statewide, one-stop shop for pro bono opportunities that’s easy to use–volunteers can sign up for an opportunity in just a few clicks–and it has email integration so volunteers can get fresh opportunities delivered right to their inbox. Pro bono can’t get much easier. When NC legal professionals think ‘pro bono,’ we want them to think ‘Pro Bono Go.'”

Pro Bono Go allows legal professionals to visit one website to find pro bono opportunities from the state’s leading civil justice organizations. Volunteers can search and filter opportunities by keyword, location, practice area, type (ex: cases, clinics, etc.), and sponsor organization. Volunteers can also set up customized email alerts when new opportunities matching their preferences hit the site. Volunteers do not need to create an account and never have to remember a password.

“The power of Pro Bono Go lies not only in its convenience but also in its ability to drive transformative change. By simplifying the process of engagement, we invite ALL legal professionals to be part of the movement for justice for all. This collaboration among civil legal aid partners statewide allows us, together, to make a lasting impact for our clients across North Carolina.” highlighted Courtney Viebrock, Interim Managing Attorney of the Pro Bono Unit at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

Allison Constance, Director of Pro Bono Programs for Legal Aid of North Carolina, said, “We are so grateful for the partnership of the NC Pro Bono Resource Center and our sister legal services organizations. Pro Bono Go provides a single place for legal professionals to find pro bono opportunities, which makes it easier for volunteers to engage with our organizations. The easier we can make it for volunteers, the more likely they are to serve, meaning that we can all help more clients together than we can separately.”

“Thousands of people across our state who cannot afford an attorney are desperate for help and can benefit from Pro Bono Go,” said Katie Russell Miller, Pisgah Legal Services’ Managing Director of Community Engagement. “We work with hundreds of local attorneys who assist our clients pro bono, and we witness the life-changing work they do to help people with low incomes navigate complicated legal systems.”

Pro Bono Go uses the Pro Bono Matters software created by SavvySuit, a Florida-based software development company that builds access to justice software and products for the private bar.


About

Pro Bono Go is the North Carolina civil justice community’s statewide one-stop shop for pro bono opportunities. It was created and is maintained by the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center in partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services.

Author: Sean Driscoll

New program will provide “summers of service” to next generation of NC lawyers

RALEIGH – We are announcing our new Summer Associate Pro Bono Program today. The program will give law firms and organizations a new way to enrich their summer associates’ experience and will provide law students with the opportunity to spend their summers in service to North Carolinians in need.

“We are so excited to offer our pro bono partners this new way to work together,” Ashley Campbell, CEO of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said. “The program provides benefits to all involved: firms and organizations can bolster their summer programs, summer associates can learn valuable skills, we get to engage future pro bono volunteers in our work, and our clients get critical legal help. Everyone wins!”

Launching in summer 2024, the program will pair Legal Aid NC clients with summer associates at the state’s leading law firms and organizations. Working under the supervision of attorneys at their organization, with training and support provided by our Pro Bono Programs team, summer associates will handle real cases for real clients, providing them with an early opportunity to gain valuable experience interacting with clients and opposing parties, conducting research, preparing documents, and even representing their clients in court.

“This program will provide invaluable real-world experience to summer associates early in their careers,” Allison Constance, Director of Pro Bono Programs, said. “Whether it’s working with clients, negotiating with opposing counsel or drafting life-changing documents, this program will allow summer associates to hone vital skills while still in law school, providing value to them and their future employers. We can’t wait for next summer!”

For the first year of the program, participating firms and companies can choose to handle cases involving criminal record expunction, Domestic Violence Protective Orders, housing conditions, and wills and advanced directives. Additional case types may be added to the program in future years.

“These are among the most important services we provide to our clients,” Allison Constance said. “This program will expose associates to the realities of poverty, but also to the sense of purpose and satisfaction that comes with making a meaningful difference in the life of someone who has little hope for justice without you.”

Each program year will conclude with regional wrap-up celebrations that will highlight the work done and the outcomes achieved by that year’s class of associates. The celebrations will be hosted by participating organizations in August.

Law firms and companies that are interested in participating should visit the Summer Associate Pro Bono Program page on our website to learn more and fill out the program agreement form: legalaidnc.org/summer-associate-pro-bono-program.

# # #

Media contact

Sean Driscoll, Communications Manager, Pro Bono Programs, 984-263-9852, seand@legalaidnc.org.

About

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at legalaidnc.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Learn more about pro bono at Legal Aid of North Carolina at legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.

Need legal help? Call 1-866-219-5262 (toll-free) or apply online at legalaidnc.org/apply.

Author: Sean Driscoll

Headshot of Allison Constance, Director of Pro Bono Programs

Dear volunteers,

As the new Director of Pro Bono Programs for Legal Aid of North Carolina, I want to introduce myself and preview upcoming ways for you to engage with us as a pro bono volunteer.

But first thing’s first …

Thank you

Thank you for being a pro bono volunteer with Legal Aid of North Carolina. Whether you’ve been with us for years or months, whether you’ve taken too many cases to count or are waiting for your first one—thank you. Thank you for giving your limited time and invaluable talents to our clients, and to us. We can’t do what we do without your help. On behalf of everyone at Legal Aid NC, I extend to you our deepest and most sincere “thank you.”

Get used to hearing that a lot from me.

About me

Leading Legal Aid NC’s Pro Bono Programs team is a new role for me—I’ve been on the job for only a few weeks—but supporting underrepresented people in North Carolina has been my passion for a long time. You may know me from my time as Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at UNC School of Law or in my previous role as an attorney at North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services. If we don’t yet know each other, I hope to change that. To start, let’s connect on LinkedIn.

Now, let’s talk pro bono.

Past and present

In the past few years, the Legal Aid NC pro bono program has struggled with some staffing deficits and shifting case priorities due to the pandemic. We have looked closely at our work and community needs, and we are redesigning many of our pro bono programs from the ground up. And we have some big plans.

We want our pro bono programs to meet our clients’ most pressing legal needs while also meeting yours. We want to know what motivates you to volunteer, what you need to succeed, and how we can meaningfully thank you for your service.

Coming soon

In the coming months, we will be announcing new recognition opportunities and awards, we look forward to launching our Summer Associate Program, and we can’t wait to share with you more opportunities to engage (even remotely!) in meaningful service.

For now, if you have any questions about pro bono at Legal Aid of North Carolina—its past, present or future—do not hesitate to reach out to our team at probono [at] legalaidnc.org.

You can also stop by our webpage at legalaidnc.org/pro-bono for the latest info about pro bono at Legal Aid. Thank you again for serving as a pro bono volunteer with us. We are excited to have you as a partner on our journey into a bright future for pro bono at Legal Aid of North Carolina.

If you want to receive updates from the Pro Bono Programs team, click here to sign up for our email list.

Author: Sean Driscoll

CHARLOTTE — Lawyers and summer associates from Duke Energy and McGuireWoods partnered up to provide free legal advice to our clients struggling with serious housing-conditions issues at a pro bono clinic June 28 in Charlotte. The clinic was part of our Lawyer on the Line pro bono program, which connects clients with common legal issues to pro bono volunteers, who provide free legal advice over the phone.

“Pro bono is a priority for us as a company, because so often these clients are also our customers,” said Alex Castle, Deputy General Counsel of Duke Energy. “We want to take care of the people in our communities who can’t otherwise afford these types of services. We really appreciate McGuireWoods and Legal Aid NC working with us to give us the opportunity to do this work.”

“Our firm is very supportive of pro bono work,” said Angie Zimmern, Pro Bono Director at McGuireWoods, “but the real hallmark of our firm is the dedication of individual attorneys. Our attorneys do pro bono because they believe in it and have a passion for it — and Legal Aid NC makes it easy for us. It’s a pleasure to partner with you, and we look forward to continuing our partnership.”

Learn more about our pro bono programs at legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.

Photo gallery

Author: Sean Driscoll

CHARLOTTE — Lawyers from Allspring Global Investments and K&L Gates provided free legal advice to our clients struggling with serious housing-conditions issues at a pro bono clinic July 11 in Charlotte. The clinic was part of our Lawyer on the Line pro bono program, which connects clients with common legal problems to pro bono volunteers, who provide legal advice over the phone.

“Partnering with Legal Aid NC allowed our company to connect attorneys with meaningful pro bono opportunities in our community,” said Chrishon McManus, Counsel and Pro Bono Coordinator at Allspring. “It means a lot to us to give back in a coordinated effort. Lawyer on the Line allows us to do it in a way that does not overwhelm our team.”

“Pro bono allows local attorneys like me to provide meaningful and tangible contributions to our communities,” said Christopher Fernandez, Partner at K&L Gates. “It is very satisfying to put our training to use to help someone in need and who appreciates our time.”

“I greatly enjoyed participating in the Lawyer on the Line clinic,” said Kenya Parrish, Associate at K&L Gates. “Legal Aid NC provided all of the materials and training so that we could easily and quickly assist clients. This was a wonderful opportunity to give back to our community.”

Learn more about pro bono at Legal Aid NC at legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.

Photo gallery

Author: Sean Driscoll

RALEIGH – Thanks to a two-year, $450,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, Legal Aid of North Carolina is expanding its housing-justice services to homeowners and renters in Eastern North Carolina.

The grant will fund a two-pronged effort targeting separate causes of housing instability among low-income residents of the region: heir property, which refers to homes and land passed down outside of the courts, an arrangement seen predominantly in Black, rural communities; and eviction, an endemic problem in low-income communities everywhere.

Of the total grant funds, $300,000 is being used to launch the Heir Property Pro Bono Project, a new effort at Legal Aid NC to involve the private real-estate bar in heir property work throughout Eastern North Carolina. Legal Aid’s Raleigh and Wilson field offices will use the remaining $150,000 to expand eviction-defense work in the City of Raleigh and Edgecombe and Nash counties.

“At Wells Fargo, we believe everyone should have access to a quality, affordable home and opportunities for creating generational wealth through homeownership,” said Suzie Koonce, Senior Philanthropy and Community Impact Specialist at Wells Fargo. “We are proud to provide this important grant to Legal Aid NC to help more families in Raleigh and across Eastern North Carolina access the legal services they need to stay in their homes and address systems that often lead to loss of property, land, and wealth for families of color.”

Heir Property Pro Bono Project

The Heir Property Pro Bono Project will partner with the North Carolina Bar Association’s Real Property Section, with support from the North Carolina Bar Foundation, to recruit North Carolina real estate lawyers and paralegals to help heir property owners establish clear title to their home and land, thereby preserving generational wealth in families, and safe and affordable housing in low-income communities. Heir property arrangements are most common in Black, rural communities in Eastern North Carolina and some mountain communities in Western North Carolina.

Heir property is a home or land that is inherited informally, often from a family member who passed away without leaving a will. Heir property typically involves several people who have inherited shares in the same property, an arrangement that makes it difficult to use the property as collateral for a loan, sell the property, or enroll in recovery-assistance programs following a natural disaster.

As a result, families lose the ability to rely on heir property as a practical financial asset, impeding their ability to secure loans and financial assistance to keep the property in a habitable condition. This can lead to the property’s abandonment, which destabilizes communities by lowering surrounding property values, decreasing local tax revenue and creating safety hazards. [1]

“Whenever we stabilize and formalize home ownership, we help preserve the stock of affordable, sanitary housing,” said Lesley Albritton, Chief of Staff for Legal Aid NC and former project director and managing attorney of the firm’s Disaster Relief Project, which often encounters heir property issues in their work. “This grant enables Legal Aid NC to expand our work facilitating long-term disaster recovery, increasing and maintaining habitable and affordable housing across the state, and supporting equitable resiliency.”

Through this project, Legal Aid NC plans to create a partnership between its attorneys and members of the private bar to better help low-income North Carolinians—particularly Black residents of rural communities—resolve complex heir property cases.

Erin Haygood, Director of Pro Bono Programs at Legal Aid NC, said, “Pro bono attorneys are vital partners in so much of what we do at Legal Aid of North Carolina. Through this project, we will integrate them into our heir property work for the first time. Combining the talents of our attorneys and members of the real-estate bar will allow us to maximize the efficacy of our advocacy to low-income homeowners in North Carolina.”

Attorneys and paralegals with real-estate experience can sign up for our Heir Property Pro Bono Project at bit.ly/lanchppbp.

Legal Aid NC’s Heir Property Pro Bono Project owes a debt of gratitude to the Land Loss Prevention Project, a Durham-based nonprofit that pioneered heir property work in the early 80’s. Since then, it has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue in North Carolina’s legal community and beyond. Among its practice areas, the Land Loss Prevention Project provides direct legal services to heir property owners statewide. The work of our project would not be possible without their legacy of committed service. Attorneys and paralegals trained by our project will be invited to also provide pro bono service through the Land Loss Prevention Project and Pisgah Legal Services, a civil legal aid organization serving Western North Carolina, as part of a pro bono referral network managed by the North Carolina Bar Association’s Real Property Section and the North Carolina Bar Foundation.

Eviction defense

Funded by $150,000 from Wells Fargo, Legal Aid NC will expand its eviction defense work in the City of Raleigh, which is served by our Raleigh field office, and in Edgecombe and Nash counties, which are served by our Wilson office.

“Keeping families in their homes by preventing eviction has always been one of our top priorities at Legal Aid NC,” said Pamela Thombs, managing attorney of our Raleigh office, “but there are never enough resources to help everyone who needs us. This funding will allow us to provide life-changing legal help to families who would otherwise have nowhere to turn.”

Ayanda Meachem, managing attorney of our Wilson office, said, “Eviction doesn’t discriminate. Our clients live in urban and rural communities, in apartment complexes and mobile home parks, and eviction is a problem everywhere. This funding will help us serve more families confronting eviction and homelessness, wherever they are.”

North Carolinians facing eviction can visit legalaidnc.org/housing to find free self-help and know-your-rights resources, or apply for help by calling our statewide Helpline at 1-866-219-LANC (5262) or applying online at legalaidnc.org/apply.


[1] To learn more about heir property, read Disasters Do Discriminate: Black Land Tenure and Disaster Relief Programs, Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, by Lesley Albritton, director of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Disaster Relief Project, and Jesse Williams, former Legal Aid NC staff attorney and current law fellow at Wake Forest Law’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.

Author: Sean Driscoll

CHARLOTTE — Wells Fargo lawyers and paralegals provided free legal advice to Legal Aid of North Carolina clients struggling with serious housing-conditions issues at a Lawyer on the Line pro bono event May 17 at the bank’s offices in Charlotte.

Legal Aid NC’s flagship pro bono program, Lawyer on the Line, connects clients with common legal problems to pro bono volunteers—lawyers, paralegals and law students—who, working under the supervision of Legal Aid NC attorneys, provide free legal advice over the phone. Volunteers can serve individually from their home or office, or as a group with colleagues from their employer or local bar association.

Lawyer on the Line is a quick and easy way to spend an hour or two and feel like you’re directly helping someone,” said Mark Metz, Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo, who participated in the event.

Mark’s client was living in a home infested with mold caused by multiple leaks, problems that the landlord was not addressing. Mark advised his client, who was nearing the end of his lease and planning to move, to negotiate a resolution with his landlord that would compensate the client while avoiding litigation.

“It felt great,” Mark said. “So much of our typical work is long and drawn out. This was very quick and provided an immediate benefit to someone.”

Glenn Huether, Lead Counsel at Wells Fargo and co-coordinator of the bank’s pro bono projects in Charlotte, helped a woman living with mold, a broken lock on her front door and other issues threatening the safety of her family. Glenn’s advice to her client included making repair requests to her landlord in writing, taking pictures and calling local code enforcement.

“It felt very rewarding,” Glenn said, “particularly when she told me, ‘This has been so great. I’m so thankful. I’m so glad we talked. I really needed this!’ That made it feel so worthwhile.”

Janice Reznick, Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo and co-sponsor of the bank’s pro bono initiatives, said, “Wells Fargo is really committed to the communities in which we operate. We encourage everyone within our legal department—not just attorneys—to participate in pro bono, and there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.”

Speaking of her own motivation for championing pro bono, Janice said, “I think it’s important to help the community as lawyers and legal professionals. As a lawyer, being able to provide my legal knowledge and use my skills to help others is an incredible experience.”

Craig Baldauf, Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Wells Fargo, helped a client whose small house had no heating or air conditioning, roaches, electrical problems and mold—problems that the client has been trying to get fixed for four years.

“It’s easy to forget, particularly when you work for a company, that our problems tend not to be the problems faced by the average person,” Craig said. “It felt really nice to take a break from our corporate problems—which are important, but in a different way—to help somebody in the community who has been struggling for years to get a decent place to live. I left with a really positive feeling about the experience and my role in it.”

Kasasira Mwine, E-Discovery Project Manager for Wells Fargo, did a double shift of pro bono service on the day of the event. He handled a Lawyer on the Line case after attending court in the morning to handle a separate pro bono case for one of our clients.

Explaining his dedication to pro bono service, Kasasira said, “Especially in the housing arena, there’s so much that tenants are entitled to under law that they’re not aware of. It gives me a lot of joy to help tenants claim as much of their legal rights as they can. To me, it’s very important to provide that to people in the community. Every chance I get to do that, I’m going to be a zealous advocate for them.”

Natali Bollinger, Senior Paralegal with Wells Fargo, helped a client whose home had a broken water heater that was causing sewage backup, standing water on her lot, dirty drinking water, a skyrocketing water bill and other issues.

“My client has done everything right,” Natali said. “She’s paid rent on time, documented all the problems, taken photos and videos. My client hasn’t called code enforcement yet. We hope that code enforcement can decide if there are violations and put pressure on the landlord.”

Discussing why she volunteered to participate in the Lawyer on the Line event, Natali said, “It was something that was easy, a minimum time commitment, and provided an opportunity to really help out. Wells Fargo is amazing. The opportunities to give back and do pro bono are endless.”

Todd Stillerman, Assistant General Counsel at Wells Fargo and longtime pro bono volunteer, said, “The work that we do with our legal aid partners is all about providing security, stability and safety to families and children in our communities. The ability to have access to the law and access to legal remedies is crucial. Wells Fargo has recognized for a long time that providing that access is something we need to be doing. I get an incredible amount of support from my employer to do this work.”

Addressing the fears that attorneys may have about pro bono work being outside their professional comfort zone, Todd said, “I’m an investment bank lawyer. I’m not a litigator. I’ve done what I’ve done because I’ve had support from Legal Aid and the attorneys that work there. They’ve helped me do things that I never imagined I’d be able to do. No matter what your background is, no matter what your skill level is, no matter what your experience is, it only takes a little bit of courage to do this work.”

Other Wells Fargo volunteers who participated in the event are:

If you want to make a meaningful difference in the lives of North Carolinians in need, visit the Pro Bono section of our website to learn about our programs and sign up to join our mission for justice: legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.

Want to stay in the loop on pro bono at Legal Aid of North Carolina? Join our pro bono email list to stay connected: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/iNkX2oL/probono.

Photo gallery

Author: Sean Driscoll

CHARLOTTE · May 9, 2023 — Lawyers with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Bank of America celebrated Financial Institution Pro Bono Day on April 27 by providing free legal advice to Legal Aid of North Carolina clients struggling with poor housing conditions. Bradley hosted the event in its Charlotte office, which is located across the street from Bank of America’s global headquarters. 

During the event, lawyers from the firm and bank partnered up to provide free legal advice over the phone to our clients facing serious problems with their living conditions, everything from leaky ceilings to dangerous faulty wiring.

Leah Campbell, Counsel at Bradley, organized the event. When asked what inspires her to do pro bono work, she said, “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity when they go into the court of justice. It can be very scary if you’re not familiar with it. That’s why it’s important for a lawyer to be there with them.” 

She also praised her firm’s commitment to pro bono. 

“One of the founding values of the firm is public service,” she said. “Both pro bono and community service in general. That commitment is demonstrated in part by the fact that attorneys can receive billable credit up to a certain amount of pro bono hours. We want to encourage people to do it.”

Megan Scholz, Associate General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, spoke of the Bank’s commitment to pro bono. “Bank of America is very committed to pro bono, volunteer work and community engagement across the country and around the world. Attorneys are encouraged to use their skills to give back to their community and are able to do so during work hours to encourage participation.”

Nate Viebrock, Counsel at Bradley, helped a woman living with a leaky ceiling, rotted-out stairs and a broken kitchen appliance. 

“We were able to get a hold of her landlord,” Viebrock said. “The landlord said they had her on their list for repairs and would call us back when the repairs were scheduled. It’s powerful when they hear their tenants have representation. That touches on why I choose to do pro bono. Our work sometimes takes months, years, to ever see any kind of result. Here we made a phone call and got a quick result for our client.” 

Andria Patterson, Assistant General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, had a client who was dealing with a bug infestation and faulty wiring on a kitchen appliance that could have caused a fire. 

“I have a passion for helping people,” Patterson said. “That’s really why you become an attorney in the first place — you want to help people. Pro bono pulls on that passion. Especially when you see people who need legal help but can’t afford an attorney. You always want to step in and fill that gap.”

Amy Puckett, Senior Attorney at Bradley, who partnered with Patterson on the case, said, “It sounds trite, but I think it’s very important to give back and invest in the community. This is a skillset that I have and it’s nice to try to make the Charlotte community better, whether in a small way or a big way.” 

Bob Roth, Associate General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Bank of America, who handled one of the more complex cases of the day — he was on the phone with his client for at least an hour — addressed the anxiety that some attorneys have about pro bono.

“You hear the acronym FOMO — fear of missing out. In pro bono there’s FOMU — fear of messing up. Part of overcoming that fear is realizing that there are resources to help you out. You’re not swimming alone. If you have that concern, you should try to dispel it as best you can and try something new.” 

If you are an attorney who wants to try something new, visit the pro bono section of our website to learn about our programs and sign up to join us on our mission for justice. Go to legalaidnc.org/pro-bono.

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