What is your regular practice area: Where do you work? What do you love most about your job?
I’m a Board Certified Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy Law. My father practiced consumer bankruptcy law for 30 years before I joined his office and I’ve taken over that focus for the past 21 years. Our office is located in downtown Monroe which is in Union County, just east of Charlotte. Way back before being a lawyer, I was an Eighth Grade math teacher so I really enjoy the teaching and educational aspect of my job. I love the initial interview intake process from small opening icebreakers through the heavy, in-depth digging for facts and analysis to the summation of the “game plan” at the end. What is supposed to be just a quick 15-20 minute attorney client introduction easily morphs into an hour-long tutorial if I’m not careful!
What is your most recent pro bono experience?
Well, with the COVID pandemic and the amount of immediate financial assistance available for debtors, I’ve been overall slow this year which makes you think that I would have more opportunities to contribute to pro bono work, but not a lot of people are asking for help so far this summer so I’m anticipating a rush towards the end of the year. As for my most recent pro bono experience, I helped a debtor get his driving privilege reinstated. It wasn’t a difficult task to complete but for him, it was an immediate life changing event since he could now legally drive again. As a show of gratitude, he gave me some of the best home-grown tomatoes that I have ever had!
How has engaging in pro bono legal service enriched your career, or enriched you personally or professionally?
Couple of ways. Once a teacher always a teacher. I like hearing the change in vocal tone or seeing the smile of relief when prospective clients realize that their circumstance is not as impossible as it first seems. I also have a soft spot for families with young children. Helping their adult parents through their financial difficulties hopefully makes the home environment better for the entire family! As a young teacher, I always felt awful for the kids that shared stories about eviction, repossession of the family car, the sheriff coming to the front door to drop off papers, or their parents having to work two jobs and are never home. For those kids, learning pre-algebra just isn’t that important when you’re worried about your home life. I’m enriched by the opportunity to make an impact on an entire family by using the skills that my father passed down to me.
Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
I am most proud when I am able to witness the long-term effects of my efforts. For example, the client, who once lived at the YWCA and had to walk to our meeting at a coffee shop near her since she had no car, is now back on her feet with a financed car and an apartment.
What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
Start small and take baby steps. For example, partner with an experienced attorney on your first pro bono work or accept a pro bono case then get your mentor to guide you along the way. Volunteer for these single day events such as Lawyers on the Line. The energy and enthusiasm to give back are so infectious at these events that you’ll be hooked! I love the opportunities that Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina both give me and they provide such excellent support and encouragement. Once you start, you’ll never stop giving back. My parents are now in their 70s and they volunteer as much as they did in their 30s!