A graduate of NC State and the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Jonathan Bogues has a long history of service to communities in the state of North Carolina both within and beyond the legal profession. He has dedicated himself to mentoring youth, particularly young African American men, empowering them to achieve their academic and personal goals through his work with the YMCA and 100 Black Men of America in the Raleigh area. He was also recently appointed as Chair of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division Men of Color Project. The Men of Color Project is designed to empower men of color to become leaders in the legal profession, facilitate an intergenerational support system, and encourage opportunities for community service and civic engagement. Jonathan recently spoke with the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center about combining his legal training with his love of service by engaging in pro bono work.
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 practice real estate law in Raleigh, NC. My favorite part of my job is interaction with clients and that no two transactions are ever the same.
To a non-attorney, who may not know what pro bono legal service is, how would you describe its importance?
Pro bono legal service is important because I truly believe everyone should have access to legal services no matter their economic or financial situation. When attorneys offer pro bono work, they are providing a service to the community that may not otherwise be available.
What is your most recent pro bono experience?
Prior to COVID-19, I was participating in the “Ask A Lawyer” days through the NC Pro Bono Resource Center, Wake County Bar Association, and Wake County Public Libraries at the East Regional Library in Knightdale, NC and Southeast Regional Library in Garner, NC. During these events, visitors can meet with Wake County attorneys to discuss any civil issues they may have.
However, since COVID-19, I have been participating in Legal Aid of North Carolina’s “Lawyer on the Line” and Heir Property Project. I have been able to do both projects virtually and via telephone conversations.
What pro bono experience or project is most significant to you?
The Driver License Restoration Clinic has been the most significant pro bono experience that I have taken part in thus far. I was not aware of the impact of not having a driver’s license, which can affect every facet of one’s daily life. Not having a valid driver’s license can be a huge detriment and hindrance for an individual’s success within society.
For example, not having a driver’s license can affect where you work and live or limit one’s options and add undue personal financial strain. It was a heartwarming and gratifying experience to hear the participants’ stories and then help remediate prior fines and other barriers that stood in the way of them regaining their driver’s license so that they were able to get their lives on track.
Why do you provide pro bono legal service?
Being a native North Carolinian, I love engaging, getting involved, and providing pro bono legal services to the community I grew up in. I want to give back and pour into the community that made me who I am today. I love the NC Pro Bono Resource Center and the staff too. Sylvia, Leigh, Jared, and everyone else are great. They make volunteering and doing pro bono work very easy and enjoyable.
If you engage in a particular area of pro bono legal service, what drew you to that area?
I do not really engage in one particular area of pro bono service over another. I tend to show up when I can. However, I am drawn toward pro bono work that is aimed at one single area rather than pro bono work for any legal area such as: The Driver’s License Restoration Clinic or Wills For Heroes. This way, I can truly focus and give specialized attention to the participants.
How has engaging in pro bono legal service enriched your career, or enriched you personally or professionally?
Engaging in pro bono work has enriched not only my career but also my personal life because it has taught me to look at each situation from different points of view. We are all from different backgrounds and walks of life so in everything that I do, I try to take a step back and be thoughtful or enlighten myself on someone’s path.
Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
I am proud of the overall work being done at the Pro Bono Resource Center and everyone doing pro bono work in general throughout the state. But if I had to choose just one that I’m most proud of, it would probably be the Driver’s License Restoration Clinic in Greensboro, NC.
I initially signed up to do it because I didn’t have any plans that day and I knew a friend or two would also be there volunteering their time. This was my first experience doing pro bono work and I was a little apprehensive at first and didn’t plan on staying long. However, once I got there, got into the swing of things, interacted with the other volunteers and participants, I ended staying the full duration of the clinic.
It was truly an amazing feeling to hear the participants’ stories and be able to give back to the community in such a hands-on, grassroots manner.
What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
Show up ready to work and engage with participants. It does not take a ton of time to participate in pro bono work either. You can dedicate one or two hours a week and those one or two hours can have a significant impact on someone’s life. There are pro bono opportunities all over the state and even pro bono programs you can complete from home or your office such as: Lawyer on the Line and NC Free Legal Answers.
Also, do not worry about not having a particular skillset or knowledge in a specific area of law. The Pro Bono Staff does a great job of making sure there are knowledgeable people in subject areas that you may not be familiar with and who can provide assistance. Last, keep an open mind, be understanding, and be empathetic to others and their situations.