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New Statewide Pro Bono Resource Center Launched

In 2010, the North Carolina State Bar adopted Rule 6.1, Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service, which states in part: “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.” In 2016, North Carolina lawyers now have a statewide, comprehensive initiative to support them in fulfilling this professional responsibility.

Chief Justice Mark D. Martin is pleased to announce the launch of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, the newest program of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. The Pro Bono Resource Center is tasked with increasing pro bono participation statewide, initially focusing on connecting recent law graduates with projects that address unmet legal needs in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. It will also provide a way for North Carolina lawyers to report their pro bono service, and will encourage and support such service through recruitment, training, and communication. The center will be one of only a handful of statewide pro bono resource centers in the country. “We have worked to establish a statewide pro bono resource for years, and we have finally achieved that goal,” said Jennifer Lechner, executive director of the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission. “I know the center will increase the capacity to serve unmet legal needs and recognize the many pro bono efforts of North Carolina attorneys.”

At the helm of the Pro Bono Resource Center is Sylvia K. Novinsky, its inaugural director. “I could not be more excited to have Sylvia Novinsky as our first Pro Bono Resource Center director,” said Chief Justice Martin. “As a national leader on pro bono, she will bring an unparalleled enthusiasm and professionalism to this new position.”

Sylvia comes to this role after nearly 20 years of service to the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she most recently held the role of assistant dean for public service programs. During her tenure at Carolina Law, Sylvia founded and advised the UNC Law Pro Bono Program, a national model for inspiring students and alumni to participate in pro bono service. She has also served as the institution’s associate director for public interest law, assistant dean for student affairs, and associate dean for student affairs. Sylvia also spends time inside the classroom as an adjunct professor, teaching Spanish for American Lawyers.

In addition to her career in higher education, Sylvia has experience working for legal aid. After receiving her JD from The American University’s Washington College of Law, Sylvia litigated federal employment-related issues and administrative unemployment, wage, and hour claims, and consumer cases for Peninsula Legal Aid in Virginia. She also has an understanding of legal aid program administration from her time as legal director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights in New York, New York.

Finally, Sylvia has been a long-time advocate for pro bono and other access to justice issues in North Carolina. She was appointed to the commission in 2014 and served as co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee. Sylvia previously chaired the NC Bar Association’s Pro Bono Activities Committee, and has also served as a chair and member of the NCBA’s Latino Affairs Committee and member of the 2011-2012 Strategic Planning Pro Bono Task Force. While at UNC, Sylvia served as an advisory board member for the Carolina Center for Public Service. Throughout her career, Sylvia has made frequent presentations about pro bono and public interest law at conferencess. 

Jared Smith is the communications specialist at the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission.

The NC Equal Access to Justice Commission was established in November 2005 by order of the North Carolina Supreme Court and is chaired by Chief Justice Mark D. Martin. The mission of the commission is to expand access to civil legal representation for people of low income and modest means across North Carolina. To learn more about the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, visit