MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight
Erica O. Chapin
Erica O. Chapin has been described as an exceptionally dedicated, committed volunteer who has contributed more than 400 volunteer hours at Legal Services of Southern Piedmont while also serving as an adjunct professor at Strayer University. Most of her time at LSSP has been working with the Western North Carolina Low Income Tax Clinic, directed by Arthur Bartlett. Bartlett commends Erica by saying, "Her understanding of our clients and commitment to helping us provide quality legal representation have enabled us to significantly increase our caseload. For this we are thankful." If you are interested in becoming involved with LSSP's Low Income Tax Clinic, contact LSSP Volunteer Coordinator Katya Riasanovsky at 704/971-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MCB VLP: Current Employer / number of years with current employer?
EC: I currently teach Law, Ethics and Corporate Governance to MBA students at Strayer University and volunteer at Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. I became an adjunct professor in January 2011, and I have been volunteering with LSSP since August 2010.
MCB VLP: Area of Practice / Expertise.
EC: I have worked in litigation for most of my legal career. I worked as a judicial law clerk in South Carolina and as an insurance defense associate in Colorado before returning to school to earn an L.L.M. in Taxation. I focused my L.L.M. course work primarily on estate planning.
MCB VLP: Law School / Law School Graduation Year.
EC: I earned a J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2004 and an L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida in 2010.
MCB VLP: What types of pro bono work cases do you work on?
EC: In the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, typical cases include helping clients with Offers in Compromise, Installment Agreements, Currently Not Collectible Status and Innocent Spouse Claims. Cases begin with contacting the prospective client by telephone and gathering information. If we are able to assist the individual with his or her tax issue, we meet with him or her and review relevant documents. Then, we discuss alternatives and choose a plan of action.
MCB VLP: How many do you typically handle at one time?
EC: I generally volunteer at LSSP two days per week. The number of cases I work on in any given day varies. On average, I would estimate working on 2-4 client files and speaking with 2-4 prospective clients who have sought our services each day.
MCB VLP: How do you prepare for handling such cases?
EC: I receive guidance from the tax clinic director and do research in the tax clinic library. The IRS offers helpful information on their Web site, including required forms and instructions.
MCB VLP: Did you participate in any particular training so that you could handle these cases?
EC: The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic periodically hosts a CLE. I reviewed the publication from the most recent CLE before starting.
MCB VLP: What advice would you give others?
EC: Don't be afraid to try something new -- like changing practice areas, teaching a class, or volunteering.
MCB VLP: What is the most challenging part of your career?
EC: Seemingly simple questions often do not have easily found, black and white answers.
MCB VLP: What is your favorite part of your current job?
EC: I really enjoy the people I work with at LSSP and the appreciation clients express for our assistance. Also, I enjoy seeing my students become engaged in insightful class