–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 a Senior E-Discovery Attorney with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton’s LitSmart® E-Discovery Team working in the Firm’s Winston-Salem office. The LitSmart team handles all operational e-discovery (collection through production) and legal e-discovery needs for the Firm’s clients using technology managed in-house by our team’s technical experts. As part of our team’s legal services, we work with clients to develop data preservation strategies, provide early case assessments, perform custodian interviews and assist with the development of e-discovery and case strategy based on an analysis of the merits and client and opposing party data. We also manage document review projects for cases across the Firm’s footprint. In my role, I train and manage contract attorney document review teams, coordinate with case teams regarding document review protocols, review strategies and privilege/confidentiality issues, prepare privilege logs, provide comprehensive reporting as to the status of a review and assist with deposition and trial preparation. I also perform high-level quality control review of documents before they are produced to opposing counsel.
I like the management function of my job. Recently, I have been managing a review project which has had more than 30 contract review attorneys, 7 E-Discovery Attorneys, and 6-7 expert teams. At the height of the review I was managing 40+ attorneys and fielding questions and document requests from the case and expert teams. I enjoy being a significant contributor to the team without always being at the forefront. I like being an expert at finding documents or creating searches which support the case team and are helpful to the case and ultimately our client.
–What is your most recent pro bono experience?
My most recent pro bono experience has been with expungements. In the last couple years there has been a drastic rise in the request for assistance with expungements. I have assisted with pro bono disaster relief efforts in North Carolina and Texas as well as pro bono efforts in larger federal cases regarding immigration. While it is always great to help people in other communities, having that personal connection and be able to help your neighbor makes local pro bono efforts feel even more rewarding. Expungements can have a direct impact in the community and I have enjoyed this recent experience.
–What pro bono experience or project is most significant to you?
The pro bono experience most significant to me was the representation of a tenant in a landlord-tenant dispute while I was working in Asheville. I received the case during November and the landlord had started summary ejectment proceedings against a family for non-payment of rent. The husband was deaf and had worked as a chef until he got sick and lost his job. The wife was a school teacher and the couple had a young daughter. I mostly dealt with the husband because the wife was working. Communication was difficult because I do not know sign language, but I distinctly remember sitting at their dining room table and sharing written notes back and forth with the daughter playing in the background and thinking I can’t let this family get evicted during the holidays. Ultimately, the outcome was good. I was able to convince the landlord to let them stay there until after the first of year, giving the family time to secure different housing and the family was pay the landlord arrears.
— Why do you provide pro bono legal service?
I enjoy helping people. I would not be the person I am today if not from the help from my family, friends and community. I feel a responsibility to help those in need. I know that there is a significant amount of the population that cannot afford legal representation and I want to help fill that service gap.
— How has engaging in pro bono legal service enriched your career, personally and/or professionally?
Professionally, it has given me experiences that I would not have otherwise obtained as a young attorney. Performing pro bono legal service sharpens your legal skills as an attorney and gives you an opportunity to fully immerse yourself into research and writing, which younger attorneys do not always have the luxury to do. It also sharpens your communication skills because, for the most part, your clients are not experienced in the law so you must present information to them in a clear and understandable way. Also, in my experience, it gives you an opportunity to connect with people on a personal level. When you are at a disaster relief clinic and assisting someone that has lost their house and possessions, you must have compassion. Not only do folks in that situation need legal help, they also need to feel like they are being heard and that someone cares about what they are going through.
— Of what moment(s) from your pro bono work are you the most proud?
The moment I am most proud of is when I was a summer intern and I helped a 90 year old legally blind grave digger successfully file an offer in compromise with the Internal Revenue Service. He could not read or write so I had to explain the entire process and walk him and his wife through the process. It was the first time that I had ever met an adult that could not read or write. Dealing with the IRS can be an arduous task but it was a fulfilling experience to help obtain a successful outcome for the couple.
— What advice would you give someone who has not yet provided any pro bono work?
My advice would be to explore the options of what types of pro bono work is available. Not everyone feels comfortable going to court and appearing before a judge but there are all types of pro bono work you could be performing. You can assist with helping draft advice letters for the Driver’s License Restoration Project or you could help review arrest/conviction records to determine if someone is eligible for an expunction. If you are in a firm, you can try partnering with another attorney. If you are a corporate attorney you don’t feel comfortable going to court, maybe there is a litigation attorney you can partner with on pro bono work that requires a court hearing. You do not necessarily have to leave your comfort zone in order to help; there are plenty of opportunities to perform pro bono work in what I would call non-traditional ways.
— To a non-attorney, who may not know what pro bono legal service is, how would you describe its importance?
I would describe pro bono legal service as a different type of community service. The community at large participates in clothing and food drives or partners with non-profit corporations to provide a slew of free or reduced fee services. Anyone can participate and volunteer to help out in these ways, but there is only a small segment of the population that can advise and assist people when they need legal services. Providing free legal advice and representation, in some instances, can be as important as these other types of community services.