RALEIGH · Sept. 26, 2017 – Legal Aid of North Carolina will join the Wake County Bar Association to honor local attorneys for their public service at the first-ever joint Pro Bono Appreciation Event on Wednesday in Raleigh. The event will honor Wake County lawyers who provided pro bono legal services over the past 12 months or performed other forms of public service as government attorneys. The event will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Sitti restaurant, 137 S. Wilmington St.
"As lawyers, service is our true calling," said Ashleigh Parker Dunston, an assistant attorney general in the N.C. Department of Justice, who chairs the bar association's Public Service Committee. "In Wake County, we are lucky to have so many attorneys who are dedicated to answering that call so generously. We're excited to thank them for their service, and hope to inspire more to follow their lead. We want to make this an annual event."
Stephanie D'Atri, an attorney with Hatch, Little & Bunn, L.L.P., in Raleigh, is the vice-chair of the bar association's Public Service Committee and a former Legal Aid lawyer. "Performing pro bono legal services and public interest work for underprivileged members of our community is our social obligation, our professional responsibility, and, simply, the right thing to do," D'Atri said. "Intrinsic value may alone guide a lawyer's desire to perform this critical work, but we hope that taking a moment to recognize and honor lawyers who remain committed to these ideals will add value to what they do and encourage others to follow."
As one of the main beneficiaries of the generosity of Wake County lawyers, Legal Aid of North Carolina is privileged to join the bar to celebrate its members' invaluable service. By participating in Legal Aid's many pro bono programs, Wake County attorneys make a real difference in the lives of our clients.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 2016, 283 pro bono attorneys performed 2,377 hours of pro bono service for Legal Aid clients. The value of this service transcends dollars and cents, but the monetary value is impressive nonetheless: Those 2,377 hours are worth roughly $600,000 on private market, and they provided $1,100,000 in tangible, quantifiable monetary benefit to our clients. That value came in the form of everything from home equity saved from illegal foreclosure to Medicare benefits saved from wrongful termination.
"It's hard to overstate the importance of pro bono service to us," said Victor Boone, managing attorney of Legal Aid's Raleigh office. "The need for our help is so great, and we will never have all the resources necessary to meet that need. The generous contributions of time and talent from attorneys in Wake County help us serve thousands more clients in need than we would otherwise. Our pro bono volunteers are critical partners in our efforts to provide equal justice for all."
Wake County lawyers supplement their service to Legal Aid clients by giving generously during the annual Wake Bar Awards, a fundraiser-slash-variety-show that lets lawyers cut loose while raising tens of thousands of dollars for our organization. Tickets are still available for this year's event, "Rogue Justice," which will be held Nov. 2 at the N.C. Museum of History.
Supporting Legal Aid is only one way that Wake County attorneys give back to their community. The bar association holds a variety of public service events throughout the year. Notable ones include:
Annual Day of Service. Every year, Wake County lawyers take over a nonprofit for a day to provide free legal help, childcare and lunch to those in need. This year's event will take place on Oct. 7 at the Raleigh Rescue Mission, a shelter and provider of other services to Raleigh's homeless population.
Lunch with a Lawyer. Launched 23 years ago by Raleigh attorney Paul Suhr, Lunch with a Lawyer is the Wake County Bar's longest-running public service project. The project is a partnership with the City of Raleigh's Summer Youth Employment project that connects lawyers with Wake County students who want to learn more about becoming an attorney.
Lawyers Read. The Lawyers Read program gives the gift of literacy to struggling elementary school students in Wake County schools. Lawyers visit a school once a week to read with first and second graders who would benefit from extra one-on-one time with a caring mentor.
Annual Clothing Drive. A partnership with Note in the Pocket, a Raleigh nonprofit that provides clothing to poor children in Wake County, this annual effort collects closets full of clothes for children in need, and puts lawyers to work sorting and delivering them for the organization.
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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at LegalAidNC.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The Wake County Bar Association is a voluntary organization for legal professionals whose mission is to enhance members' opportunities and well-being through professional, educational and social activities, as well as serve the public. Learn more at WakeCountyBar.org.
Sean Driscoll, Director of Public Relations, Legal Aid of North Carolina, 919-856-2132, email@example.com
Ashleigh Parker Dunston, Public Service Committee Chair, Wake County Bar Association, 919-716-6438