Pro Bono Service Award Winners Announced
Article Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Written By: Russell Rawlings
The North Carolina Bar Association, in conjunction with the NCBA Foundation’s Public Service Advisory Committee, will present the 2012 Pro Bono Service Awards on Friday, June 22, at the NCBA Annual Meeting in Wilmington.
Presentation of the awards will transpire during the President’s Luncheon at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, headquarters for the NCBA Annual Meeting, June 21-24.
Tommy Holderness of Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson of Charlotte will receive the William L. Thorp Award, presented annually since 1984 by the NCBA. The award recognizes the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year and was named in memory of Bill Thorp, a founder of Legal Services of North Carolina, in 2002.
The 2012 recipient of the Deborah Greenblatt Outstanding Legal Services Attorney Award is Dale Deese of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Pembroke office. Since 2006, this award has been presented in memory of the longtime executive director of Carolina Legal Assistance.
The Larger Law Firm Pro Bono Award recipient is Moore & Van Allen. St. John-Ritzen & Russo Klein of Asheville will receive the Smaller Law Firm Pro Bono Award.
The Greensboro Bar Association will receive the Chief Justice Award while the Elder Law Project of the North Carolina Central University School of Law will receive the Law Student Group Pro Bono Award.
The Younger Lawyer Pro Bono Service Award, presented annually by the Young Lawyers Division, will be presented to Sherry Everett of Durham at the annual meeting of the YLD on Saturday, June 23. Diane Burks of Charlotte has been named honorable mention.
Thorp Award: Tommy Holderness
In 2011, Holderness donated 590 hours representing five client families referred by LANC. He provides leadership within his firm for pro bono assistance to many needy families in the community. He helped design and implement a legal support project for the homeless families who were temporarily housed in Hall House. The families had six months to stabilize, clear credit barriers to housing and employment, and pursue individual rental homes.
Holderness also led a team of 15 transactional and litigation lawyers at his firm in surveying a wide range of legal needs for these families. This team provided direct representation, counsel and referrals regarding credit problems, government benefits, family status and estate planning for every issue presented by every responding family.
Holderness also has a long history of outstanding service to indigent families, including recognition as the 2007 Volunteer of the Year by Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, the 2009 Volunteer of the Year by LANC-Charlotte, and as a North Carolina Bar Association Citizen Lawyer Award recipient in 2011. He currently serves as a LSSP board member.
Greenblatt Award: Dale Deese
Deese is the former executive director of Lumbee River Legal Services and currently senior managing attorney for LANC-Pembroke Office. He has been a legal services attorney since 1989, representing clients in more than 4,000 administrative judicial hearings. He supervises a staff of three attorneys, three paralegals and two support staff.
Deese and his staff have worked together to obtain over $4 million worth of benefits in 2011 alone. In 2011, they also helped four local organizations obtain nonprofit status.
Deese serves on several boards benefitting Native Americans, including the United Tribes of North Carolina and the North Carolina Indian Business Association.
Large Firm: Moore & Van Allen
Moore & Van Allen accepted more cases than any other firm in both private landlord/tenant and wills project areas to benefit Legal Aid of North Carolina and Legal Services of Southern Piedmont. Forty Moore & Van Allen attorneys in Charlotte contributed nearly 500 hours of pro bono service, bringing the total over the last two years to 1029 for the Charlotte office.
The primary method of pro bono work is through the Landlord-Tenant project, where each month, firm attorneys interview three new clients with a range of housing problems. At the conclusion of the interviews, clients who need representation are assigned attorneys. The firm provides training, mentoring and coaching, as well as obtaining excellent results for clients.
Fifteen attorneys supported this project in 2011, which donated 382 hours of pro bono service. The firm also participates in the Legal Services for the Elderly program, assisting LSSP staff with approximately one-third of its new cases each month. Beginning in early 2010, the firm committed to accept a minimum of three new pro bono wills cases each month. Last year, 25 attorneys helped 30 clients complete or open new wills cases, and donated 114 hours of pro bono time on this project.
Small Firm: St. John-Ritzen & Russo Klein, PLLC
The firm volunteers routinely with Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers Program. Both of the firm’s attorneys specialize in elder law and estate planning. The firm has been volunteering with MAVLP since 2000-01, closing a combined 160 cases for MAVLP. Both attorneys in the firm present CLE programs to train other volunteers, and serve as resources to Pisgah Legal Services staff attorneys to answer elder law questions that arise.
Chief Justice Award: Greensboro Bar Association
The Greensboro Bar Association provides exemplary support and volunteer service to the LANC-Greensboro Office. Founded in 2009, the society has enabled LANC-Greensboro to increase its activity by more than 50 percent. The Greensboro Bar Association also conducts and ongoing recruitment drive to encourage members to register with LANC-Greensboro. From its membership of 765 attorneys, more than 200 have registered to date.
Law School: NCCU Elder Law Project
The Elder Law Project was founded in 2008-09 as a way for students at the North Carolina Central University School of Law to assist the Durham office of LANC with the backlog of clients needing wills and advance directives. The project now includes the following activities:
• Ongoing, as-needed intake and preparation of documents for LANC-Durham clients;
• Monthly intake at the Durham Senior Center;
• Wills for Habitat;
• Project Will Power; and
• The TALIAS wills project.
There are 22 students currently active with the project. Students volunteer on an ongoing basis.
Younger Lawyer: Sherry Everett
The YLD Pro Bono & Poverty Issues Committee has selected Sherry Everett as the Pro Bono Award Recipient. Everett is a partner with Everett & Everett in Durham. Everett has been recognized for her critical role establishing and overseeing the Butner Federal Prison Reentry Assistance Program, which assists federal inmates with the resolution of unresolved pre-incarceration charges in the state court system.
In addition, Everett has devoted significant time to the Durham Legal Aid Office, 4ALL Day of Service and the NCBA Call4All Program. She serves as chair of the NCBA’s Solo, Small Firm & General Practice Section.
Diane Burks receives honorable mention for her considerable activity on pro bono projects in the Charlotte area, including her work obtaining nonprofit status for five separate 501(c)(3) organizations, her service to Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont, her involvement with the Charlotte School of Law and Wills for Heroes, and her service to individual pro bono clients. Burks is an associate at Katten Munchen Rosenmann LLP and is active with the Mecklenburg County Bar.