By Kaitlyn Fudge, Co-Chair of the NCBA Pro Bono Recognition Subcommittee
Home to Fort Liberty and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina has more veterans than most states. For the last five years, McGuireWoods, Wells Fargo, and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (CCLA) have teamed up to serve this community through an estate planning pro bono clinic called “Wills for Warriors.”
The annual clinic, which takes place around Veterans Day, is a one-stop shop where veterans meet attorney and legal professional volunteers from McGuireWoods and Wells Fargo to discuss their goals and leave with needed estate planning documents such as wills, power of attorney forms, and health care power of attorney forms.
The one-day clinic usually yields an impressive 60 legal documents for the warriors. The clinic is so popular that McGuireWoods and Wells Fargo typically have a waitlist for volunteers who want to sign up. “We are very proud to be able to work together to meet this need in the community. Many of our volunteers are veterans themselves or have family members who are veterans, so this is particularly meaningful to them,” says Attorney Angie Zimmern, pro bono director at McGuireWoods.
The organizations have replicated the clinic every year since 2018. Impressively, not even the covid-19 pandemic put a stop to their work. In 2020, the team creatively worked together to make sure they could draft documents remotely and ensure clients could get the documents signed and notarized. They solved this by creating a “drive-thru” clinic in the parking lot of CCLA. The team made workstations with plexiglass and utilized precautions such as face masks, and sanitizer. Angie remarked, “It was incredible that we were able to keep the continuity of that service during those days when we could not do much at all.”
They repeated the covid-19 drive-through clinic in 2021. They were able to resume in-person clinics in 2022 and 2023.
A success like this requires a great team. In addition to Angie and numerous other volunteers, Courtney Viebrock (attorney, CCLA), Laureen Kickham (paralegal, CCLA), Soreé Finley (attorney, CCLA), MeChel Tyson (attorney, Wells Fargo), Glenn Huether (attorney, Wells Fargo), Mandy Schuller (attorney, Wells Fargo), Todd Stillerman (attorney, Wells Fargo), Jodie Herrmann Lawson (partner, McGuireWoods), and Jane Sheingo (event planner, McGuireWoods) have been integral to organizing the event.
Veterans who are interested in the clinic can reach out to CCLA to participate.