MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight
Heather W. Culp
This month the MCB VLP features Heather W. Culp. Ms. Culp's pro bono commitment spans multiple legal service providers, including clients at her own firm, Mitchell & Culp, that she represents on a reduced fee or pro bono basis.
MCB VLP: Current Employer / number of years with current employer?
HC: Mitchell & Culp, PLLC; five years
MCB VLP: Area of Practice / Expertise?
HC: Bankruptcy and other debtor/creditor relations; business litigation
MCB VLP: Law School / Law School Graduation Year:
HC: University of Kentucky, 1997
MCB VLP: How did you get involved in pro bono work?
HC: My friend, Will Esser at Parker Poe, had a conflict that prevented him from accepting an MCB VLP Pro Bono Habitat for Humanity referral. He asked that I handle the matter because deadlines were fast approaching. I agreed, enjoyed the experience and the rest is history.
MCB VLP: What is a typical case like?
HC: Generally, the client owes a debt that they cannot pay and needs representation in a legal action brought by the creditor.
MCB VLP: How many pro bono cases do you typically handle at one time?
HC: I usually handle two cases at a time from outside referring agencies, such as MCB's Volunteer Lawyer Program and Legal Aid. In addition, I usually have between one to three additional pro bono (or greatly reduced fee) cases each month as a result of potential clients calling me directly.
MCB VLP: How do you prepare for handling such cases?
HC: I don't find the legal issues or procedures to be significantly different that my regular (paying) clients' cases. Sometimes, though, client communications can be more difficult. For example, the client may lack reliable telephone service, e-mail, etc.; may need to minimize work disruptions in order to keep her job and be paid; may speak little or no English; and/or may lack transportation to our office.
MCB VLP: What is the best advice you've received during your legal career?
HC: Trust your instincts.
MCB VLP: What advice would you give others?
HC: Don't use a breath mint in Mecklenburg County small claims court. I thought the bailiff might jail me for this transgression. They mean it when they say NO FOOD OR DRINK.
MCB VLP: What is the most challenging part of your career?
HC: Getting everything done, and accepting that this may mean that some things are not perfect but instead just good enough.
MCB VLP: What is your favorite part of your current job?
HC: Helping real businesses and real people get through real problems. By the time we are called, the you-know-what has generally hit the fan.
MCB VLP: Any other pertinent things you would like to share with the Mecklenburg County Bar and legal community?
HC: Join a section or committee, or otherwise get involved. It is a great way to make friends that you'd probably otherwise never have occasion to meet.