Call 4ALL: The Need & Opportunity for Pro Bono Service in N.C.
Article Date: Monday, April 09, 2012
Written By: Mary Horowitz
The tremendous need for pro bono legal services for the poor is undisputed and has been well-publicized this year, such as in the previous edition of the Bar Association’s N.C. Lawyer magazine. More than 3.2 million people in N.C. qualify for legal services help (34% of the population). There are 19,162 clients eligible for free legal services for every legal services staff attorney. Tragically, but not surprisingly, given these numbers, Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) has to turn away a large majority of eligible clients simply because of a lack of resources. Who is being turned away? The median annual household income for legal services clients served is $11,000. The maximum gross annual income for a family of four to be eligible for services by LANC is $24,000. They may be seeking advice as to where to turn to receive the health care or education benefits to which they are entitled, or to have explained a legal notice they have received but don’t understand, or perhaps to avoid finding themselves homeless or the continued victim of domestic abuse. The stakes are high; the need is great.
In order to try to address this crisis, the North Carolina Bar Association, in collaboration with LANC has inaugurated a new program, Call 4ALL, that provides attorneys the chance to help a pre-screened client of LANC. In most instances, Call 4ALL attorneys will volunteer to talk with clients through approximately one-hour telephone consultations, from the attorney's office or even from the comfort of the attorney’s home, and at the frequency he or she designates, providing advice or discrete services to Legal Aid clients. Even if the volunteer attorney does not practice in the area of need, Legal Aid of North Carolina will offer training opportunities.
As stated in Rule 6.1, “A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” Call 4ALL provides a structured way for lawyers to meet this goal, within a limited scope of engagement (unless the attorney wants an expanded role), and provide essential assistance to people in need in these difficult times. A survey last fall indicated that 96 percent of participating Call 4ALL attorneys were “Satisfied” (11 percent), “Somewhat Satisfied (13 percent), or “Highly Satisfied” (72 percent) with their Call 4ALL experience. Ninety-nine percent would recommend Call 4ALL to their fellow attorneys.
A short video describing the program, and how it helps those in need of legal advice, can be viewed from the N.C. Bar Association’s homepage, http://ncbar.org or directly by clicking on
http://www.ncbar.org/featured-videos/call4all-bridge-the-gap.aspx. We would encourage you to take the time to watch this video. In addition, more information, the video, and answers to frequently-asked questions about the program can be found at http://www.ncbar.org/public-pro-bono/call-4all.aspx. A few case summaries from February include:
A Call 4ALL volunteer assisted a client who was a beneficiary of his mother’s trust. Part of his inheritance included an interest in a condominium. The other beneficiaries wanted to give our client a cash portion of the trust in exchange for his share of the condo. The attorney volunteer explained the applicable law and took it upon herself to ensure that the client received a fair market value for his portion of the condo.
Another Call 4ALL client had a water leak in her home. The landlord removed the water but missed the burst pipe. The client received a water and sewage bill of $850 the first month and $1070 the second month. The Call 4ALL volunteer attorney negotiated on behalf of the client with the landlord and reached an agreement where the client’s rent was suspended until the pipes were fixed. The landlord also agreed to pay $1,300 of the excess utility costs. The client was grateful that someone stood up for her.
A third Call 4ALL volunteer attorney had a client that was having difficulties with two issues. The first, a sexual harassment claim that was not taken seriously by the employer. The second, the client did not receive her last paycheck. The volunteer attorney called the employer and convinced them to review the video tapes in support of the sexual harassment claim and to investigate the issue. He also got the employer to issue the client’s last pay check. The volunteer attorney gave the client a voice in dealing with the former employer.
Attorneys can volunteer to participate in the Call 4ALL program by simply completing the online application at https://4allnc.ncbar.org/participate/call-4all-attorney-volunteer-online-application.aspx, or by printing out the application at http://www.ncbar.org/media/13760141/call%204all%20volunteer%20form.pdf and returning it to the Bar Association. If you have any questions about Call 4ALL, please let us know.
You can reach Mary Horowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org and Kathy Jefferson at email@example.com.
Call 4ALL is an easy way to provide pro bono service and make a real difference in the lives of those in need. Thank you for your consideration of volunteering in this worthwhile and
important effort! •
Mary Horowitz is the director of Public Service & Pro Bono Activities at the NCBA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Views and opinions expressed in articles published herein are the authors' only and are not to be attributed to this newsletter, the section, or the NCBA unless expressly stated. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of all citations and quotations.