by Cory Hohnbaum
The first ever Pro Bono Summit was held at the Bar Center on September 25. I would like to thank the following for participating in the summit: Nate Evans, Executive Director of International House; Ted Fillette, Senior Managing Attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina; Laura Lawrence, Chief Legal Officer at Safe Alliance; Bob Simmons, Executive Director of Council for Children’s Rights; and Ken Schorr, Executive Director of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. I would also like to thank Nancy Roberson, the MCB Executive Director, and the members of the Pro Bono Evaluation Task Force, Judge Carla Archie, George Hanna, Adam Horner and Becky Lindahl for all their hard work, including hosting and participating in the summit. Many member of our Bar also attended. The dialogue was lively and engaging and an important step on the journey to setting the Bar’s priorities in the pro bono arena for years to come.
Just writing that list of impressive leaders reminds me that I have, at times, fallen victim to the notion that leadership is reserved for those in what one typically thinks of as leadership positions. That’s nonsense of course, a fact I was reminded of recently when I met with the staff of our Bar whose jobs, in part, involve helping the Bar with its pro bono efforts. I believe the Bar, and with the Bar’s help, the pro bono agencies named above, can find ways to serve more people and have a greater impact in our community. My belief in our ability to do better in this area is, in part, shaped by my knowledge of the dedicated and talented staff at the Bar and the staff of the agencies the Bar works with currently. They are all passionate about making our community a better place and committed to the idea of justice for all.
While space does not allow me to name everyone, I did want to recognize at least some of these individuals. While I served as president of Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, I was fortunate to witness firsthand the fine work of Katya Riasanovsky, the Director of Pro Bono Services for both LSSP and Legal Aid of North Carolina, and Brittany Coleman, the Director of Development and Public Relations at LSSP. Both are instrumental to the success of those organizations. I also know firsthand of the great work of Ann Dorsett, the Advocacy Volunteer Coordinator at the Council for Children’s Rights and appreciate the work of LuAnn Ritsema, the Director of Communications and Marketing at that agency.
I have also been fortunate in my role as MCB president to witness the passion and work of the Bar staff. Leah Campbell, the Assistant Executive Director and Director of Communications and Events, works hard to effectively publicize pro bono efforts and initiatives. Lisa Armanini, the Director of Continuing Legal Education, has worked successfully to increase the number of joint CLEs between the Bar and the pro bono agencies. Breanne Mercer, the Legal Services & Referral Assistant Coordinator, and Shannon Reid, the Director of Compliance and Ethics, work effectively with the Bar’s Pro Bono Committee and Community Services Committee to find ways for the Bar to fill the gaps in the services provided by our pro bono agencies.
This is just a sample of the dedicated staff of the Bar and the pro bono agencies. Leaders all, no matter the title.