Tell me about your regular practice area: Where do you practice and what do you do? What do you love most about your job?
I am part of the transactional Intellectual Property Practice Group at Parker Poe in Raleigh, NC. Our group works on a variety of deals involving the licensing or development of intellectual property, and I often negotiate technology contracts involving cloud software, data sharing, and applications to support commercial operations. I also assist with our trademark prosecution and enforcement portfolio. The best part of my job is interacting with innovative clients and getting hands-on training in emerging fields of law, including cybersecurity and data privacy.
What is your most recent pro bono experience?
I am currently involved in the Driver’s License Restoration Mass Relief Pro Bono Project, which is a collaboration between the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center and the North Carolina Justice Center. The Project aims to provide relief to eligible, low-income clients who have had their drivers’ licenses permanently suspended because they failed to appear in traffic court or could not afford to pay their traffic tickets. The Project also seeks to mitigate structural barriers faced by low-income North Carolinians who may have experienced racial disparities in the enforcement of traffic violations. This Project should also help individuals who experience employment insecurity stemming from unaddressed traffic violations.
What pro bono experience or project is most significant to you?
Although I firmly believe that all pro bono service has a positive impact on the community, my most significant pro bono experience has been assisting with the FEMA clinics in eastern North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence. It was humbling to see so many attorneys from all across the state unite to assist those affected by property damage and residential displacement.
Why do you provide pro bono legal service?
Regardless of economic status, everyone should have access to legal representation. I am fortunate to be part of a small population of people who are licensed to practice law, and we all have an obligation to use that unique position to help those who are struggling. A matter that only takes up a few hours of my time can have a big impact on a pro bono client’s quality of life.
How has engaging in pro bono legal service enriched your career, personally and/or professionally?
Working on pro bono projects has provided me a more informed perspective about the issues facing my neighbors and my community, enabled me to meet attorneys from across North Carolina, and afforded me with opportunities to explore different areas of law outside of my primary practice.
Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
I am most proud of my projects related to veterans’ advocacy. I am accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist veterans to apply for (and appeal decisions regarding) VA benefits. However, I have also represented veterans in other matters, including a recent case in which I helped a disabled veteran receive a favorable outcome when he was facing homelessness due to uninhabitable living conditions.
What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
Put down this newsletter, and dive into a case! If you are feeling hesitant about learning a new area of law on your own, consider (i) collaborating on a case with a more experienced attorney, or (ii) attending one of the many half-day clinics offered through local legal service organizations, which often provide training before the clinic begins. Also, keep in mind that pro bono work can come in all shapes and sizes—opportunities range from purely transactional/remote work to hands-on litigation matters. There’s something for everyone!
To a non-attorney, who may not know what pro bono legal service is, how would you describe its importance?
Many individuals who have legal needs do not have access to adequate legal representation. Although North Carolina has several organizations that provide assistance to clients who otherwise could not afford to retain private counsel, many of those organizations rely on a combination of public grants and private fundraising efforts to fund operations. As a result, the demand for discounted legal services often exceeds the supply of public interest attorneys. When an attorney who works outside of the public interest space volunteers to take on a pro bono matter, it helps improve access to justice for vulnerable populations.