Pro Bono Spotlight: Heather Culp

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Pro Bono Volunteer Spotlight: Heather Culp
Pro Bono Project: NC Free Legal Answers

By Sarah Hill McIntyre

For Attorney Heather Culp of Essex Richards, P.A. in Charlotte, every year brings the same challenge: to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono work for her fellow North Carolinians.

Find out how you can volunteer with NC Free Legal Answers to do pro bono work at your own pace.

Culp has served as a volunteer attorney with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Charlotte office since 2010. She was recognized in the inaugural 2016 class of the NC Pro Bono Honor Society, her prior law firm of Mitchell & Culp was awarded the Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont’s 2012 Outstanding Legal Services Award (Small Firm), and she is currently chairing the 2018-2019 Access to Justice Campaign in Mecklenburg County, to benefit Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Charlotte office. Culp strives to accomplish the 50-hour goal, set forth by Rule 6.1, sometimes even accepting pro bono cases through her own intake system in addition to assisting legal service providers. For Culp, doing pro bono work is an acknowledgement of the special skills and training unique to those in the legal profession and of the duty all attorneys have to serve the public.

With her record of pro bono involvement, it was no surprise that Culp was one of the first attorneys to volunteer when the Mecklenburg County Bar and the North Carolina Bar Foundation collaborated to bring the ABA Free Legal Answers program to North Carolina in 2017.  The NC Free Legal Answers program (NC FLA)  brings free limited-scope legal representation to the public through a secure online portal. Low-income North Carolinians can log into the public-facing side of the portal to submit their civil legal questions while N.C.-licensed attorneys in good standing can quickly register online to peruse and answer the waiting client questions.

The beauty of NC FLA lies in its flexibility. Because of its online platform, attorneys can log in wherever, whenever, and pick whatever questions they like.

“I can answer questions on my own schedule and without a major time commitment,” Culp said.

At Essex Richards, P.A., Culp focuses her work on bankruptcy, debtor/credit issues, and commercial litigation. She is also an active member of the NCBA’s Bankruptcy Section. Upon logging into NC FLA, Culp was immediately able to find questions that paralleled her day-to-day work. She found that there were numerous questions about outstanding debts and the collection process in North Carolina, as well as questions asking about collecting debts owed to the client.

“It reaffirm[ed] my belief that most people who owe money try very hard to repay it but also need to maintain shelter, food, and transportation,” Culp said.

It is time to for us all bring our resolutions to our practice, to set goals for the year that reflect the highest potential of the legal profession, and to acknowledge how our time and talent may be generously given so that our neighbors can have a better year.

How about you? How will you answer Culp’s call to work pro bono into your year? When you’re ready, the North Carolina Bar Foundation staff is ready for you and will be available to answer your questions, get you registered with NC FLA, and keep you motivated all year long.