Our pro bono volunteers are crucial partners in our efforts to provide equal access to justice to all North Carolinians. Here are some volunteers that have made a big difference in the lives of our clients.
In 2013, a college student contacted Legal Aid when their landlord threatened to evict them. The problem was that our client's roommate had moved out early without paying their portion of the rent. We referred the case to Doug McLanahan, who represented the client pro bono in small claims court, where he obtained a judgment against the roommate. In October 2019, Doug told our pro bono team that our client's roommate had finally made all the required payments. Doug had been the volunteer on this file for six years, nine months and sixteen days. His dedication really paid off for our client. Learn more about Doug.
Posted February 24, 2020
Our client needed help drafting documents that would grant power of attorney to her son. We referred her to Alex Urquhart for help. After meeting with our client, whose husband had just passed away, Alex realized that she had much more extensive legal needs. Alex went above and beyond, patiently educating our client on estate issues, the power her son would have as her power of attorney, and the documents she needed to get her name changed. Alex was patient, kind and empathetic in all his communications with the client, readily agreeing to help her even when our client's case became more complex than we thought it would be.
Posted February 12, 2020
Our client's identity was stolen and a fraudulent credit card account was opened in her name. She could not convince the credit card company that she was a victim of identity theft, so they sued her when she refused to pay the charges on the account. Facing an upcoming court date, our client called us for help. Legal Aid volunteer Rochelle Bellamy Mayfield took the case and contacted the company's lawyers on behalf of the client. Thanks to Rochelle, the credit card company accepted the fraud claim and dismissed the lawsuit. When Rochelle contacted her client with the good news, her client responded, "You have made my day, my week, heck my entire year!"
Learn more about Rochelle.
Posted January 30, 2020
An elderly client recently contacted Legal Aid because an open septic tank outside her door was spewing raw sewage, which was seeping into her home. Despite contacting her landlord, repairs had not been made to fix the problem. We transferred the case to Chelsea Barnes, an associate at Nelson Mullins and participant in our Volunteer Lawyer Program. Chelsea contacted the landlord and negotiated a settlement agreement in which the landlord admitted their failure to comply with the law, and our client received a $3,200 reimbursement for damages she suffered. The client was very grateful for the settlement, but after previous unsuccessful attempts to reconcile the situation, the client was also pleased Chelsea got the landlord to "just admit that they were wrong." Learn more about Chelsea.
Posted January 3, 2019
Gray Styers, a Lawyer on the Line volunteer and supporter since the program's inception in 2011, has tirelessly and successfully advocated for numerous Legal Aid clients. Recently, Gray helped a client receive a reimbursement after a property preservation company failed to make proper repairs to construction done on the client's bathroom and living room. Although the company initially alleged they had no assets and had since dissolved as an LLC, Gray's advocacy allowed the client to collect the money that she was owed due to the breach of contract. Learn more about Gray.
With very little advanced notice, Michael Jacula, who has regularly volunteered with Legal Aid since 2013, recently agreed to represent a victim of domestic violence who sought assistance obtaining a protective order against her abuser. Michael got right to work conducting negotiations on the client's behalf, before going on to draft the Domestic Violence Consent Order, as well as represent her in the hearing. Michael successfully prepared the order to also grant temporary custody to the client, who was, understandably, extremely relieved to be able to ensure that her young children would be out of danger as well. In addition to helping victims of domestic violence, Michael regularly assists clients with consumer and bankruptcy matters. Michael is dedicated to providing pro bono services, while also running a very successful private firm, and his impassioned advocacy has helped to improve the lives of many Legal Aid clients throughout the years.
Learn more about Michael.
Posted December 10, 2019
Mark Finkelstein secured a settlement of nearly $2,000 from a home repair contractor who did shoddy work for one of our clients. Our client is an elderly homeowner in a rural part of the state living on a fixed income. Our client got a grant from the USDA to replace the damaged floors in our client's home. Our client hired a contractor with the grant funds and the contractor did a very poor job. He left nails sticking up through the flooring, and the flooring started to bubble within months of the installation. Our client reached out to us for help. Mark heroically stepped in and negotiated a settlement approaching $2,000 with the original contractor so our client could hire a new contractor of her choosing and finally get her floors fixed properly. Recovering money from contractors is notoriously difficult, and any monetary benefit is often completely offset by the cost of hiring an attorney. This outcome would have been nearly impossible without Mark’s efforts. Learn more about Mark.
Posted July 24, 2019
Evan Lewis, a former Legal Aid lawyer now in private practice, helped save our client's home by untangling a complicated "heir property" issue. Our client is a disabled senior citizen living in a family home that required significant repairs. Legal Aid became involved after the city in which our client lives cited the home for several code violations. The home was titled in the names of our client's parents, who passed away years ago without transferring title to their children. The property taxes on the home were also delinquent due to our client’s limited income. Volunteer attorney Evan Lewis generously donated his time and expertise with this type of legal issue (often referred to as “heir property”) and was able to resolve the title issue for the home, which allowed our client to qualify for a home repair grant and property-tax relief from the city. Our client and our client's relatives were elated to learn that the home would stay in the family. Without Evan’s assistance, the home may have been condemned due to the code violations. Learn more about Evan.
Posted July 24, 2019
Andrea Chomakos helped one of our clients close out her deceased husband's estate, paving the way for our client to receive a loan modification from her mortgage lender. Our client had been struggling financially since her husband passed away some years ago. While he was still alive, she and her husband took out a bank loan using the home as collateral. Our client got behind on the payments after her husband’s passing. We were in the process of helping her get a loan modification when her lender informed us that her husband’s estate had to be settled as part of any modification package. Andrea stepped in and administered and closed out the estate of our client’s husband—a very complicated process. Closing her husband's estate allowed us to successfully negotiate a loan modification with her mortgage lender. Our client avoided foreclosure, and even got lower monthly payments. Learn more about Andrea.
Posted July 23, 2019
Our client came to Legal Aid seeking help with a collections issue during a difficult time in her life, having just lost her mother. While still in mourning in the months after her mother's death, a collections agency began harassing her with phone calls and letters, claiming that she was responsible for her mother's credit card balance—a debt of which our client knew nothing. We assigned the case to Ron, who worked with our client to track down the debt to its source and then demanded that the collections agency prove that our client was obligated to settle the debt. After making several phone calls and filing a fraud report, Ron uncovered the truth: The collections agency had no legal justification for coming after our client. Thanks to Ron's perseverance, our client recently received a letter from the collections agency stating that it was no longer pursuing the debt. That's a huge burden off our client's shoulders. Learn more about Ron.
Posted July 11, 2019
Our client loaned someone money but soon realized that she was not going to be repaid. She could not afford a private attorney, so she sued in small claims court on her own. At the hearing, the judge refused to review our client's evidence and ruled against her. With a short deadline to appeal, our client contacted us for help. We assigned the case to Polly Chien, one of our pro bono volunteers in Greenville. Working closely with attorneys in our Greenville office, Polly prepared to represent our client at her appeal hearing. Thanks to Polly's hard work and unwavering determination, the judge ruled in favor of our client and awarded her nearly $1,000 in damages.
"Taking a pro bono case is a great way for a new attorney like me to gain some invaluable experience in the local courthouse. I don't do court cases, so at the beginning I was anxious and worried about whether I could adequately represent my client at her hearing. However, Legal Aid's Greenville office gave me their relentless support and advice throughout the process. I have to thank attorney Daniel Worrall for his guidance and tips that reduced my anxiety and mistakes in the courtroom. Many legal aid clients have more than one broken piece in their lives. We couldn't help fix them all, but with my humble assistance in amending one piece of this client's life, she could find strength to move on. It has been a very rewarding experience in which both the attorney and the client are the beneficiaries: the client receives the free legal help, and the attorney has the opportunity to learn new skills and build up a new network in the process. Thank you, Legal Aid!" Learn more about Polly.
Posted June 18, 2019