By Kaitlyn Fudge
“Our courts are designed to protect the stability of our law, and pro bono attorneys can play a role in that important tradition. Our courts work better when all parties have a say in the outcome, even those without sufficient means to participate. Protecting an individual’s position safeguards the law at the same time, and as an officer of the court, I see that as my sincere duty.”
Who spoke these wise words? None other than Lorin Lapidus – a man who is a stellar example of someone who dedicates his legal services to pro bono work and cultivates a strong pro bono atmosphere at his firm.
Lorin is a North Carolina Board Certified Appellate Practice Specialist at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP in Winston-Salem. In his day-to-day work, he handles cases in appellate courts and ensures that counselors at the trial level are properly preserving appellate issues.
Lorin thrives on forming deep connections with people. He sees pro bono work as a way to bring compassion to all people interacting with the court system.
Over the last five years, Lorin has volunteered his legal services as part of his firm’s Pro Bono Program. Nelson Mullins provides legal services to (1) persons of limited means; (2) charitable, religious, civic, community, government, and educational organizations serving people of limited means and (3) individuals, groups, or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties, or public rights. Impressively, the program operates on a local and national scale and offers pro bono opportunities across a broad range of matters including civil, criminal, legislative, appellate, impact litigation, and amicus briefs. Through this program, Lorin has helped with affordable housing matters, free speech cases, and family law issues.
A specific case that stands out is M.E. v. T.J., 275 N.C. App. 528 854, S.E.2d 74 (2020), mod. by, in part, aff’d by, M.E. v. T.J., 380 N.C. 539, 869 S.E.2d 624 (2022). As part of the North Carolina Appellate Pro Bono Program, the Court of Appeals named Lorin as court-appointed amicus counsel to defend the trial court’s ruling. The district court in Wake County had denied a domestic violence protective order to the plaintiff who was in a same-sex dating relationship on the grounds that such order was prohibited by statute. The plaintiff who mounted a substantive due process and equal protection challenge to Chapter 50B statute appealed. The assignment to defend the trial court’s ruling was challenging because Lorin had to quarantine his personal feelings and replace them with a focus on the rules of civil procedure and principles of jurisdiction. The struggle that Lorin faced in this case is one that many lawyers confront – our personal feelings versus our client’s need – and pro bono service is equally a part of our justice system’s balance.
Beyond working on specific individual pro bono matters, Lorin has encouraged a pro bono culture at his firm by working closely with the pro bono manager (Norah Rogers) to build connections with educational and nonprofit groups such as Legal Aid of North Carolina and the Duke Law School First Amendment Clinic.
Besides his pro bono work with Nelson Mullins and North Carolina’s Appellate Pro Bono Program, Lorin serves on the NCBA Appellate Rules Committee, is a member of the NCBA Appellate Practice Section, and has been inducted into the North Carolina Pro Bono Honor Society (2019-2022).
“I credit our son Brighton and cats Jack and Lil with giving me the essential tools needed to be a good pro bono lawyer. Observe with childlike wonder, be curious and bold, be chill, but know when to pounce.”