When looking for a pro bono opportunity for Womble Bond Dickinson, Partner Jon Mize was attracted to NC Free Legal Answers because the program provides a pro bono experience that brings together the diverse group of practicing attorneys in the office during their work day.
On Nov. 7, NC Bar Foundation Program Partner Womble Bond Dickinson, LLP hosted the first NC Free Legal Answers firm “Empower Hour” in their Raleigh and RTP offices. Set up included nothing more than reserving conference rooms and ordering lunch. Empower Hour pro bono clinics do not require attorneys to leave work or travel to another site in order to provide pro bono service.
“Many of our attorneys practice in niche areas and pro bono opportunities are not always easy to find within these practice areas. I frequently hear from attorneys that they want to do pro bono work but are worried about the time commitment or the subject matter. This program solves both of those problems.”
Jon Mize, Partner, Womble Bond Dickinson, (US) LLP
The convenience of the NC Free Legal Answers platform promotes pro bono involvement and team building among the firm’s distinct practice areas. Volunteers log in through nc.freelegalanswers.org and can immediately sort, filter and respond to questions in legal categories that fit their interests. This allows attorney volunteers to have very individualized experiences while working side by side to provide pro bono legal services to North Carolinians across the state.
Not only does the website platform allow for attorneys to respond to civil legal questions posted by financially eligible users in all NC counties, but because of its accessibility, attorneys can remotely participate together in the Empower Hour.
Womble Associate Orla O’Hannaidh felt the Empower Hour was one of the most convenient pro bono opportunities available for our attorneys.
“We just had to walk down the hall and spend lunch working together on our laptops to answer interesting and important questions from folks in our community, providing much-needed pro bono legal service.”
Orla O’Hannaidh, Associate, Womble Bond Dickinson, (US) LLP
The 13 attorneys who participated in the Empower Hour from the Raleigh and RTP Womble offices collectively responded to 37 questions posted by clients in Anson, Ashe, Buncombe, Carteret, Craven Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Lincoln, New Hanover, Pitt, Rockingham, Rowan, Sampson, Stanly, Union and Watauga counties. The attorneys’ responses provided legal information, resources and advice related to Hurricane Florence, Housing, Family/Divorce/Custody, Debts & Purchases, Personal Injury, Work, Benefits, Health Care, Wills/Inheritance, Civil/Constitutional Rights and Military/Veterans issues.
David Boaz, a Womble associate who helped organize the event, said that NC Free Legal Answers breaks down the barriers to entry because it gives flexibility to attorneys and reduces the potential for practice conflicts as a result of the program’s limited representation set up.
“Most issues do not call for specialized knowledge, and if a question does, some very basic research will likely yield the answer,” Boaz said. “Our firm’s Empower Hour, was a great way to introduce NC Free Legal Answers to our attorneys and improve their comfort level with doing this work. We also had a great time getting together and collaborating on questions! I would highly recommend this program to firms looking to increase pro bono participation.”
Womble leads the state in the number of NC Free Legal Answers volunteers with 31 attorneys registered as participants.