2020 Pro Bono Awards Announced

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The winners of the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2020 Pro Bono Awards have been selected. The recipients were chosen by members of the NCBA Pro Bono Committee, chaired by Emily Moseley and Jennifer Mencarini.

Congratulations to each recipient and their nominators, who provided the background and biographical information included below for each honoree.

This year’s recipients of the NCBA Pro Bono Awards are:

William Thorp Pro Bono Service Award:
Matthew Scott Roberson – McGuire Wood & Bissette, PA (Asheville, NC)

The William Thorp Pro Bono Service Award is presented to an NCBA member attorney who practices in North Carolina and has provided substantial legal services, in excess of the aspirational goals of Rule 6.1, with no expectation of receiving a fee, to a client or client group that could not otherwise afford legal counsel.

Matthew “Matt” Roberson has been practicing law for 14 years, joining McGuire, Wood & Bissette in 2017. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2000) and Campbell Law School (2004), he practiced with Adams, Hendon, Carson, Crow and Saenger from 2004-17. Roberson joined the Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyer (MAVL) Program, a partnership between Pisgah Legal Services and the Buncombe County Bar, when he began practicing law in Asheville in 2004. Since that time he has been one of the most generous MAVL volunteers, donating a total of 1,143 hours of pro bono legal services in 54 legal cases to help vulnerable local families secure safety from domestic violence, avoid eviction, foreclosure and homelessness, and stop creditor harassment and abuse. In 2017 and 2018, he donated over 100 hours of legal work, assisting a low-income widow appeal the foreclosure of her home to the N.C. Court of Appeals and N.C. Supreme Court.

Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award:
James Anderson Barrett – Pisgah Legal Services (Asheville, NC)

The Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award is presented to a lawyer who is employed full time by a legal services program in North Carolina and who has made an exemplary contribution to the provision of legal assistance to help meet the needs of the poverty population in North Carolina. The award is named in memory of Deborah Greenblatt, longtime executive director of Carolina Legal Assistance.

James A. (Jim) Barrett is a native of Laurinburg and product of Scotland County’s public schools. He is a graduate of Wofford College (1979) and the University of North Carolina School of Law (1983). Barrett has devoted his entire legal career to Pisgah Legal Services, serving as a staff attorney focusing on housing law and community economic development issues from 1983-93, and as executive director since 1993. As executive director, he has led Pisgah Legal Services to expand services, growing from a staff of 15 including five attorneys to a staff of 66 including 27 attorneys. The program has diversified funding and expanded from one centralized office in Asheville to 12 sites as services have been expanded dramatically in spite of numerous government funding cuts. Pisgah Legal Services mobilized more than 15,000 volunteer hours to help serve more than 16,800 people in 2018, and in 2019 raised more than $1.5 million for its annual campaign.

Outstanding Collaborative Pro Bono Award:
Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Project, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (Charlotte, NC)

The Outstanding Collaborative Pro Bono Service Award is presented to a law firm, local, district, or statewide bar organization whose members have engaged in significant and notable legal services or have contributed outstanding support and assistance to the maintenance of pro bono legal services for low-income individuals.

The Charlotte Triage Project, which began September 5, 2018, is made up of multiple representatives from nine partner organizations. Representatives from McGuireWoods and the Bank of America Legal Department led the task force along with representatives from the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina in Charlotte, Moore & Van Allen, Husqvarna Group, K&L Gates, Duke Energy and Wells Fargo. The collaboration serves as a benchmark for future pro bono across North Carolina by allowing the private bar to take greater ownership of serving low-income clients. The group collectively handled cases involving eviction prevention/housing, expunction of criminal records, and access to healthcare through the Healthcare Marketplace. There were over 300 attendees at the kickoff and service has been provided to well over 100 clients. Additionally, 150 volunteers have been trained to assist future clients in this ongoing project.

Law Firm (Large and Small) Pro Bono Awards
The Law Firm Pro Bono Awards recognize law firms for their commitment to pro bono service through the contribution of pro bono hours, the percentage of billable hours devoted to pro bono work, the number and percentage of firm attorneys providing pro bono legal service, the firm’s creative approach to pro bono engagement, the consistency and sincerity of its pro bono program, and the presence of a law firm culture that is grounded in the observance of Rule 6.1 (Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Small Law Firm Pro Bono Award:
Counsel Carolina (Osborn Gambale Beckley & Budd, PLLC) (Raleigh, NC)

In less than one year, Counsel Carolina has found a way to serve almost 800 people. Why is that remarkable for a law firm? Because of the way they’re doing it.

Since April 2019, Counsel Carolina has been bringing their office to clients – instead of the other way around.

By housing their firm inside a 33-foot RV, Counsel Carolina is able to meet clients in places and at times most convenient to them. Counsel Carolina’s mission is to close the Justice Gap, and they do this by hosting free legal advice events, volunteering thousands of hours of pro bono services, and partnering with community organizations to expand their reach.

By bridging the obstacles that prevent regular, everyday people from getting the legal help they need, Counsel Carolina functions as a community legal resource for the underserved.

Large Law Firm Pro Bono Award:
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton (Raleigh, NC)

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton works with the Legal Aid of North Carolina’s special Advocates for Children’s Services unit in providing pro bono services in representing students through two separate projects: Special Education Project, a project that provides advice to families in need; and the School Discipline project, a project that provides representation at school suspension hearings. Both programs have a dramatically positive impact on families.

Through the special education project, Kilpatrick’s partnership has enabled LANC to provide the parents of students with disabilities a much more intensive level of initial issue-spotting and advice than we would otherwise have the capacity to offer, closing several education cases in 2018 and 2019, in which Kilpatrick attorneys totaled more than 400 pro bono hours.

Within the school discipline realm, Kilpatrick represented students who are facing long-term removals from school, which had a significant positive impact on individual students as well as on LANC’s overall ability to better serve its clients.

YLD Pro Bono Award:
Tiffany Marie Burba – Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein (Raleigh, NC)

The Younger Lawyer Pro Bono Service Award is presented by the NCBA Young Lawyers Division to a YLD member who has made extraordinary contributions by providing exemplary legal services without a fee and increased access to justice on behalf of persons of limited means and/or charitable groups or organizations.

Tiffany Burba is an NCBA Young Lawyers Division member who has provided exemplary pro bono legal service. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland (2014) and Vanderbilt University, where in 2017 she earned the Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University Law School and the Master of Science in Management from the Owen Graduate School of Management. She joined Parker Poe in 2018, and despite her billable workload as a corporate and intellectual property attorney, over the past several years she has consistently demonstrated a passion for and commitment to pro bono legal service, including becoming accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans with filing VA-benefits claims and appeals. In 2019, Tiffany completed 75.5 hours of pro bono service, and in 2018 completed over 50 hours of pro bono service.

Law School Pro Bono Service Award:
Wake Forest University School of Law – Criminal Justice Project (Winston-Salem, NC)

The Law Student Group Pro Bono Service Award is presented to an outstanding law student group whose pro bono project advanced access to justice in North Carolina. Consideration is given to law school groups or projects engaging two or more North Carolina law school students who are not receiving law school academic credit for their work and who have provided assistance to low-income people in North Carolina.

The Criminal Justice Project is a collaboration between the Know Your Rights Project, the Brake Light Clinic, the Prison Letters Project and the Expungement Clinic at Wake Forest University School of Law. It has provided a multi-faceted approach to lessen the impact for communities of color when interfacing with the criminal justice system in North Carolina. The projects do this by (1) educating citizens about their legal rights when being stopped by police and fixing brake lights for free; (2) assisting incarcerated individuals with legal research; and (3) assisting individuals to expunge criminal records.

The students who volunteer with these pro bono projects have collaborated with local court and government officials, churches, civic and community organizations, local attorneys, high schools and radio stations. Over the course of the last three years, they have educated more than 3,000 citizens (across all age groups) about their legal rights when stopped by the police, responded to over 700 letters from prisoners requesting legal research, assisted more than 2,200 individuals with gaining access to their criminal records, assisted more than 300 individuals with getting their criminal records expunged, and have logged more than 1,300 volunteer hours.