The 2019-20 bar year represented a key milestone for the North Carolina Bar Foundation, as it reached the 60th anniversary of its founding. This anniversary has given us an opportunity to reflect on the Foundation’s journey as a way of framing the bright future that lies ahead. The events of the past year have also demonstrated how quickly the ground can shift, creating new needs for many, and the important role that the Foundation plays in meeting and adapting to new legal needs in our state.
The Foundation’s work is made possible by the gracious generosity of its donors and volunteers. The Foundation’s Endowment was created in 1987, and it has since made more than $6 million in grants in the form of more than 750 grant awards. The Foundation’s Legal Aid of North Carolina Fund began in 2007 with a lead gift from Charles Dixon, and now has a value that exceeds $2.3 million, providing meaningful support to the operations of LANC.
We have much to celebrate in reflecting on the work of the Foundation’s programs:
- NC Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (NC LEAP) was launched in 2007 as a project of the North Carolina Bar Association Business Law and Corporate Counsel Sections and is the only statewide program of its kind. Since its inception, over 3,000 small business owners have been assisted by the program.
- The Wills for Heroes Program, launched by the NCBA Young Lawyers Division in 2007, provides free wills, powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney to North Carolina first responders. In 2019-20, the NCBF held six Wills for Heroes clinics across the state, where 188 volunteers produced 630 estate planning documents for 210 first responder families.
- The annual 4ALL Statewide Service Day, launched in 2008, now regularly answers almost 10,000 calls through the work of almost 500 attorney volunteers each year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed many people in our state in need of legal assistance, and the work and efforts of our programs and volunteers are as important and needed now as ever. Our pro bono efforts have adapted to a new environment that has little precedent in recent history. The Foundation has worked with legal services providers across the state to provide programming responsive to pandemic-related legal needs.
The NC Free Legal Answers program was able to respond immediately to the pandemic through the creation of a question category devoted to COVID-19. Individuals from nearly every county across the state have been served through this platform during the pandemic. Lawyers for Literacy volunteers created a library of video recordings of lawyers and paralegals reading civic education books accessible to parents and teachers. The Wills for Heroes program is shifting to a software platform that can be used remotely by volunteers to serve first responders. The COVID-19 Frontline Health Planning Project, a program partnership between the Foundation and NC Pro Bono Resource Center, enables the remote creation of advance health care directives for essential and frontline workers.
The Foundation coordinated with legal aid providers and bar organizations to host COVID-19 (Virtual) Legal Hotlines throughout North Carolina. Thousands of individuals have had COVID-19-related questions answered by hundreds of volunteers through these hotlines.
All this work was made possible thanks to your volunteer time and philanthropic support. We are grateful to you for your engagement and support, which we need as we continue our work to serve. The capacity of our profession and our organizations to step up, step in and make a difference during this time of need has been vital for the people of our state. Together, we will continue our important work to unite the talent and generosity of our profession to be a power of greater good for the people of North Carolina.
Thank you for being a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and for your support of the North Carolina Bar Foundation.
Jason M. Hensley
North Carolina Bar Foundation