Duke University Police Officer Aaron Pruka and his wife Katie at the Wills for Heroes event at Duke School of Law.

When the doors to Duke Law School opened at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 9, energy pulsed through the otherwise quiet halls. Just a few hours remained before the tipoff of the second, regular season Duke-UNC basketball game, an event that defines the blue stretch of Tobacco Road each spring. But a different brand of excitement electrified the law school as a group of talented, focused volunteers prepared to spend a Spring Break Saturday serving first responders and their families.

Attorney and law student volunteers had arrived earlier to run through training under the experienced NCBA Young Lawyers Division leaders Rebecca Rushton, Chadwick McCullen and Samantha Unmann, and North Carolina Bar Foundation Pro Bono Staff Attorney Nihad Mansour. Rushton first guided volunteers through a PowerPoint reviewing the flow of the day – how volunteers would intake and discuss preferences with clients and a review of estate planning basics – before dividing the volunteers into small groups with one attorney and several law student volunteers. Within minutes, clients were seated across from the teams, wearing anxious but happy smiles on their faces.

Among them were Colin Cantrell, who serves with the Duke University Police Department, and his wife Brittany. The Cantrells are expecting their second daughter this summer, and the free clinic was a natural fit to ensure peace of mind for their family.

“Now he’ll have two girls calling him ‘Daddy Bear’,” Brittany said “We both just can’t wait.”

Triangle-area volunteers weren’t the only ones who took time away from their families and friends on the weekend to serve. Brandy Boone, a paralegal student from Jacksonville, left her home at 5 a.m. that morning to head west. She joined four other notaries to verify the products of client meetings with first responders. LaToya Thomas, a student paralegal and notary with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, joined her. “These events let me practice my notary skills while networking with others in my profession,” she said.

The event wrapped up in the early afternoon after serving 38 first-responder families from every facet of public safety in Durham, Orange and Person counties. For those families, more than 104 legal documents were drafted, including wills, health care powers of attorney, and general powers of attorney. Many of these documents were active immediately and thus ensured that on the drive home from Duke, each family could breathe a little easier knowing they were covered in a way they hadn’t been just a few hours prior.