Grantee Spotlight - Charlotte Nonprofits Celebrate and Recognize Pro Bono Attorneys and Advocates
The North Carolina Rules of Professional Responsibility recognize that, “Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” Support for pro bono service has been an important part of NC IOLTA’s grant-making from its inception. Beginning in 1992, the NC IOLTA increased its commitment to pro bono by proactively offering to make grants to volunteer lawyer programs based on a per lawyer formula to make sure that volunteer lawyer assistance could be provided statewide. Support for such programs has continued, and, through 2012, NC IOLTA has granted over $10 million to support such programs. In Charlotte we currently support a volunteer lawyer program jointly operated by Legal Aid of NC (LANC), Legal Services of Southern Piedmont (LSSP), and the Custody Advocacy Program at the Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR), which uses an innovative team approach (using volunteer attorneys and lay advocates with staff attorney supervision) to handle cases by court appointment.
This year these three NC IOLTA grantees in Charlotte—that area’s largest recipients of pro bono services—hosted their first annual Pro Bono Awards celebration sponsored by Lawyers Weekly, Bank of America, and Moore and Van Allen. More than 200 attorneys, judges, advocates, and community members gathered on September 11 at the Charlotte City Club to honor the advocates who have generously given their time and expertise to local indigent families, and to celebrate their accomplishments. In 2011 approximately 300 attorneys and advocates gave more than 5,500 pro bono hours to CFCR, LANC, and LSSP, serving upwards of 450 local families and individuals in need, and donating the equivalent of almost $1.4 million in legal services. The local firms, attorneys, and advocates recognized and honored at the event made considerable pro bono contributions toward the community’s access to vital legal services, which transformed the lives of hundreds of area residents.
In addition to recognition for the outstanding service of law firms and individuals, George V. Hanna III of Moore & Van Allen received the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award, a lifetime achievement honor recognizing an individual whose longstanding and exceptional dedication to pro bono legal service has made a meaningful impact on access to justice in the community and state. In his remarks, Hanna said, “Participating in and supporting pro bono efforts is not merely a benefit for the client; it is a rewarding and enriching endeavor as counsel. We as lawyers have the unique and privileged opportunity to increase access to counsel and legal assistance for those in need. In doing so, we help the justice system deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all.”
As the need for legal services for low-income families grows each year, more attorneys are stepping outside of their private practices to volunteer with legal aid organizations to help eliminate the financial obstacles to accessing justice. You can offer your assistance anywhere in the state through the NC Equal Access to Justice website, ncaccesstojustice.org.