I often wear a necklace with a pendant inscribed “FIND THE SILVER LINING.” I like it because it reminds me that there are lessons and opportunities in my own mistakes and hardships. It also reminds me that part of my job as an attorney is to give my clients hope and encouragement during challenging times, and that in so doing, I can be a silver lining.
Since 2010, in addition to representing paying clients, I have served as a volunteer attorney for the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (formerly known as Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and currently celebrating its 50th anniversary), representing the indigent on a pro bono basis. I’ve also accepted volunteer referrals from Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), and at any given time have a few pro bono clients who come in to my office seeking legal help but cannot afford representation. When the work is done, our pro bono clients thank me and my team with notes so kind and sincere that they make us feel like superheroes. They give my team pictures drawn by their children, produce from their gardens and flowers from the grocery store.
October is National Pro Bono Month. Approximately one-third of Mecklenburg County residents are financially eligible for free legal assistance in civil cases. North Carolina’s 2017-19 state budget repeals the Access to Civil Justice Act and eliminates about $1.7 million in funding for North Carolina nonprofit legal services organizations, funds that had been paid from court filing fees. These agencies, and the clients they serve, urgently need our help.
North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 provides that every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. There are several ways to fulfill this professional responsibility, which include:
- accepting a pro bono referral from the Mecklenburg County Bar;
- volunteering at https://meckbar.freelegalanswers.org, an American Bar Association backed website that allows attorneys to earn pro bono credit for anonymously answering civil legal questions posted online by community members who qualify for legal services. The MCB is the first and only metropolitan bar in the United States participating in this online pro bono effort;
- volunteering with Mecklenburg County’s pro bono agencies, such as Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Council for Children’s Rights, International House, Latin American Coalition, LANC, and Safe Alliance’s Legal Representation Program;
- supporting pro bono agencies’ missions by donating funds. (No donation is too small—or too big!); and
- making in-kind donations through the agencies’ Amazon wish lists. Go to https://sharecharlotte.org/search/give-shop to donate items from Amazon wish lists posted by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Council for Children’s Rights, International House and Safe Alliance.
This year’s annual Pro Bono Awards, held by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, LANC, and Council for Children’s Rights, will take place on October 24 at 5:30 PM at The Mint Museum Uptown. For more information or to RSVP, contact Nancy Mulholland at 704-943-9479 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a great opportunity to thank the honorees for their pro bono service and to catch up with some of the best lawyers in our Bar.
Finally, please join me in providing assistance to those in need. We all have the power to create silver linings for the underprivileged in our community.