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Joining Talent and Generosity

Collaboration lies at the heart of the most successful, sustainable pro bono programs.

What do NCBF volunteer programs such as Wills for Heroes, Disaster Legal Services and Lawyers for Literacy have in common? They are successful initiatives born of the commitment of NCBA members with the support of Foundation programs staff, often in concert with schools and legal services organizations such as Legal Aid of NC.

Whether a pro bono initiative was born of a single attorney’s dream, the work of a committee, or an effort originating with the Foundation itself, collaboration lies at the heart of the most successful, sustainable programs.

Where Servants’ Hearts Find Wings

Lisa Williford celebrates the spirit of giving embodied in the members of the Young Lawyers Division. Lisa speaks passionately about prioritizing pro bono early in one’s career and she sees the accessibility of NCBF programs, and project development with the Foundation, as helping attorneys achieve that goal. As the 2022-23 Chair of the Division, she witnessed with pride how volunteerism was thriving, YLD members continually rallied to support existing programs, and new ideas were always taking shape.

“I appreciate opportunities that are available to work with the Foundation,” said Lisa. “By tapping into the staff’s resources, knowledge and expertise, the pro bono and civic education efforts across the NCBA are that much stronger.”

It Often Starts With a Single Idea

“I’ve always been that person compelled to help where I can,” said Barrett McFatter, 2022-23 NCBA Real Property Section Council member. As a newly assigned Chair of the Section’s Pro Bono Committee, Barrett had an idea for a pro bono project tied to securing heirs’ property rights. The effort would involve coordination with legal services organizations throughout the state, and draw in resources across practice sections. “The vision was there, but the way forward was unclear,” said Barrett. But things began to take shape when he connected with Foundation staff.

“Our Foundation programs staff can help tap into outreach, volunteer and training resources across the Association,” said Kim Bart Mullikin, NCBF Senior Director. “This is the type of project that will benefit from the administrative support, coordination and oversight that Foundation programs staff can provide, and I’m excited to be a part of getting the Heirs’ Property Pro Bono Project off the ground.”

NCBF as a Member Benefit

When Leila Hicks made a career shift seven years ago, moving from Legal Aid of NC to private practice, her devotion to serving others was still a burning desire. “The demands of a legal practice can become all-consuming, which is why my affiliation with the NCBA and NCBF are so important to me,” says Leila. “My membership and committee work enable me to keep a balance, and stay closely connected to others who are service-oriented.” As chair of the NCBA Membership Engagement Committee, as well as active member of the Foundation’s Civic Education Committee and Future Lawyers Subcommittee, Leila exercises her fair share of member options for giving back, while encouraging others to do the same.

Katie Riddle, Paralegal Pro Bono Division Committee member, shares Leila’s enthusiasm. “I am inspired by the dedication of my peers and all those who provide encouragement in exploring new avenues of service,” says Katie Riddle. “Realizing the wealth of NCBA support available for non-lawyer involvement in pro bono work was actually the impetus for my membership,”  she adds.

In 2022, Katie’s volunteerism earned her the Outstanding Pro Bono Paralegal Award, and the story won’t be ending there. The soon-to-be-launched Naturalization + Refugee Assistance Project (a Paralegal Division and International Practice area initiative), was born of Katie’s long-held desire to address the unmet needs of immigrants seeking legal support. The project will launch as a paralegal program in partnership with Church World Services (Greensboro), expanding to engage attorney volunteers and the set of services available to assist these at-risk clients. Foundation programs staff are helping to build out the client referral process, as well as volunteer recruitment and training resources.

Whether you are looking to expand your pro bono service, have an idea for an initiative or simply want to talk about what’s possible, contact your Section or Division Pro Bono Committee Chair or reach out to the NCBF at [email protected].

This article is part of the 2023 Impact Series. Access the 2023 Impact webpage.