By Ashley Skaff
In 2016, when the Greensboro Legal Aid office lost the funding necessary to provide representation for members of the community navigating Domestic Violence, or “DV”, court, Tom Robins, an attorney at Bunch & Robins and member of the Family Law Section of the NC Bar Association, stepped up. In discussing his decision to begin this project, Tom is practical, and it is easy to see why he’s been a successful family law attorney for decades, “Legal Aid wasn’t in a position to accept these cases and it’s what I do so, naturally, it’s what I can do to help. I then asked some other lawyers if they would be willing to take it on.” They were and so, the Randolph County DV Volunteer Project was born, with Tom coordinating and recruiting and his assistant, Patricia King, putting a rotational schedule together for the volunteers. The original group was 6 pro bono attorneys and, over the past 6 years, has fluctuated from as high as 6 to currently 4- Tom, of course, along with Margaret Megerian, Chelsie Embler, and Ben Morgan. In 2018, the group was recognized by the Randolph County Bar with the Chief Justice Award.
“[The] Plaintiffs in this situation are vulnerable because of the nature of what has happened and because the court system can be intimidating.” Tom’s pragmatic approach to this work also makes it easy to see why he’s never had difficulty recruiting volunteers, “people see the need, it’s not a hard sell, it’s just a time commitment.” Some cases are fairly quick, filing a 50B or 50C but some turn into longer cases and those, too, are taken in stride. The group also makes referrals to social services and/or housing if needed, recognizing that almost everyone needed DV assistance has more needs than just the judge’s order. When asked if he would be willing to discuss setting up a similar program in other counties once people read about this project, Tom is more than willing and welcomes anyone interested in starting their own or volunteering with Randolph County. Just give him a call and he won’t even have to talk you into it.