4ALL’s Common Theme: NC Legal Community Is Continuing To Step Up

Every 4ALL Statewide Service Day is unique, perhaps none more so than in recent years as the North Carolina Bar Foundation worked through the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for 15 years and counting, the success of every 4ALL event has hinged on the volunteer spirit of North Carolina’s legal community and the eager participation of North Carolina Bar Association members across the state.

The 2022 4ALL Statewide Service Day was on Friday, March 4, and conducted virtually for the second consecutive year. Nearly 400 volunteers – attorneys, paralegals, law students – stepped up to answer more than 7,000 calls.

Every call was different, and every volunteer has a story to tell about their 4ALL experience. Let’s hear from a random sampling of members who played their respective parts in this year’s event and responded to our request for comments.

Carly Baker, left, and Helen M. O’Shaughnessy, Wake Family Law GroupHelen O’Shaughnessy (right) and Carly Baker of Wake Family Law Group took advantage of the virtual format by turning their 4ALL Statewide Service Day participation into a casual Friday experience.

“We enjoyed answering calls remotely from our office,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It was really rewarding to be able to help callers from all over the state – callers who might otherwise not have access to legal assistance with their family law questions.”

“It was either my second or third time participating,” Baker added. “My most interesting call was about sharing custody of children when one parent lives in another country.”

O’Shaughnessy was participating in her fourth 4ALL Statewide Service Day.

“One caller wanted to adopt her grandchildren with her brother,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It sounded strange at first, but they raise the children together, and she wanted to be sure the children were taken care of should one of them die.”

It just goes to show you never know what to expect when you answer the phone on statewide service day. But rest assured by the time you hang up, in keeping with the original 4ALL marketing pitch emblazoned on billboards across the state, the caller will be grateful for the opportunity to “talk to a North Carolina lawyer for free.”

Celia Pistolis, LANC, RaleighCelia Pistolis is a longtime 4ALL volunteer who serves as Deputy Director, Legal Advocacy at Legal Aid of North Carolina. Perhaps as much as any 4ALL volunteer, she understands the critical need for civil legal assistance in this state.

“How wonderful for lawyers from all practice areas to come together and answer questions for the public during 4ALL,” Pistolis said. “I answered a host of housing and social security questions for callers.

“Although the questions were unique, the callers consistently thanked me and added some common refrains – ‘that is the information I needed to know’ and ‘I didn’t know that was the law.’

“Thank you to the N.C. Bar Foundation staff for creating an opportunity for all lawyers in North Carolina to spend this day of service.”

Dale Stephenson Ward Family Law Group, Cary, pictured with her cat.Dale V. Stephenson is an associate attorney with Ward Family Law Group in Cary. She appreciated the opportunity to volunteer from home, where she received emotional support from her feline friend, Ash.

“My experience with 4ALL 2022,” Stephenson said, “reminded me of why I became a lawyer in the first place: to serve others.

“Whether it is answering a simple question or delving into a more complex issue, 4ALL allowed North Carolinians to speak with a professional with no strings attached – many of whom sought advice to help a loved one.

“I am honored to assist those who may not have had the opportunity to receive legal advice without the existence of 4ALL.”

Rachel Royal (CP, NCCP) is a freelance paralegal who operates Royal Touch Legal & Business Solutions, LLC in Wilmington. She has volunteered to screen calls ever since 4ALL Statewide Service Day started utilizing paralegals for this purpose.

“While most of my conversations with callers have been less than two minutes, it is that short period of time that sets the tone for the caller’s experience with the project,” Royal said. “Paralegals are skilled in client communication and issue-spotting, making them particularly well-equipped for this volunteer service.

“When I answer a call, I introduce myself by first name and ask if I can get a short description of the caller’s legal need so I can get them to the right department. This helps callers know that I am not the person who can give them the advice and prevents them from going into a long explanation that they will only have to repeat. However, it takes a trained paralegal ear to pick out keywords in a caller’s description to know when to ask additional questions.

“Without this discernment, a caller with a question about the sale of property for a deceased family member could be sent to a real property attorney when they really need to speak with an estate attorney. Paralegals who get those finer details can prevent the caller from being bumped from one department to another. This keeps the hold times and caller frustration to a minimum.

“I often answer calls from the town I live in or surrounding areas. This is rewarding because, even though 4ALL is a statewide effort, I feel like I am still doing something to help my immediate community.”

Nan Hannah of Hannah Sheridan & Cochran, LLP has been an integral part of 4ALL since its inception and an especially familiar face at the WRAL call center in Raleigh. Rest assured when in-person participation resumes next year, she’ll be among the first to register. Until then, she gives high marks to the remote option that technology has afforded volunteers the past two years.

“This year’s 4ALL was a wonderful event,” Hannah said. “The callers with whom I interacted were truly grateful for the opportunity to describe their legal challenges and to receive guidance as to how they might best address their concerns.

“I still long for and hope for a future opportunity to reconvene in person and enjoy the collegiality of a day spent with lawyers who practice in different areas and who I do not get to see on a regular basis. That being said, there is much good in using the Telzio platform. It permits lawyers not located in the urban centers to participate in 4ALL each year. It allows lawyers who may not have three-hour blocks of time to devote to a central call center to participate by checking in and out using the Telzio app.

“Most of all, 4ALL allows lawyers to fulfill our ethical responsibility to provide pro bono service. In this case, in particular, it permits that pro bono service to individuals regardless of the caller’s financial status. Those who do not qualify for Legal Aid’s assistance, but who truly cannot afford an attorney can receive assistance and guidance. Those who simply have no idea where to turn can receive informed guidance as to who they should contact and what they need to ask.

“These nuggets of knowledge are invaluable to the callers.”


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Yazmeen Gadalla (NCCP) serves as a bankruptcy paralegal with Hendren, Redwine & Malone, PLLC in Raleigh. In a word, she was “thrilled” to volunteer for this year’s 4ALL Statewide Service Day.

“The idea of connecting North Carolinians looking for help to an experienced attorney in that field was right up my alley,” Gadalla exclaimed. “I enjoyed getting the chance to speak with them, find out their need, and get them to someone who could help.

“I know how difficult it can be to have a legal question and not have the means to get it answered. 4ALL allows the opportunity for access to quality legal services, and I’m proud to have been able to act as a go-between to help facilitate that access.

“The 4ALL event has been a brilliant way to get the legal community involved to better the lives of the people around them. And at the end of the day, pro bono is all about helping the public. I’m proud that I was able to contribute my time for such a worthy cause, and thankful that so many elite attorneys donated their time to do the same.”

Arista Sibrey of the Raleigh office of The Clausen Law Firm proclaims her favorite pro bono event is 4ALL, describing it as “a time where attorneys from across the state, from diverse areas of practice, come together to answer questions from North Carolina residents, many without the resources to otherwise speak with an attorney.”

She credits her mentor, Nan Hannah, for introducing her to 4ALL when Sibrey was still a student at Campbell Law School.

“As part of our mentor/mentee relationship, we had to come up with an activity where I could observe the legal profession,” Sibrey said. “Nan decided to take me to the 4ALL event in March of 2016. Long before the global COVID-19 pandemic, as a third-year law student, I walked into WRAL campus, not sure what to expect.

“The best way to describe the scene was like walking into a busy telethon. I could hear the phones ringing off the hook, lawyers answering the calls or holding up signs to get a ‘floater’ to answer a caller’s specific question. I was in awe. But what stuck with me the most was the camaraderie of the bar and friendly professional atmosphere. It seemed like everyone knew each other and enjoyed seeing each other. Everyone seemed to enjoy answering calls and assisting their colleagues if they needed help.”

Sibrey has volunteered every year since.

“In 2020, I signed up as a Social Security Disability law ‘floater’ – I use quotes here because I wasn’t quite at a year of practicing in this field. I found out that I knew more than I thought, and the experience gave me an immense feeling of gratitude being able to assist callers with their questions regarding Social Security Disability.

“The following year, 2021, was our first time doing the event virtually. While I missed seeing all my friends and colleagues, I still enjoyed taking calls and answering important questions. And I wasn’t completely alone; my toddler ‘helped’ take a call or two.

“This past year, I signed up to become a committee member for 4ALL. I enjoyed brainstorming and being an active participant in planning and implementing the event. I look forward to many years of participating in the 4ALL event and helping North Carolinians with their legal questions. In a time when we have become more isolated and distant, this is one event that brings us together to help our fellow neighbor, one phone call at a time.”

Catherine Clodfelter pictured at home, where she served as part of 4ALL.Catherine Clodfelter of Parker Poe in Raleigh said this year’s 4ALL Statewide Service Day was especially meaningful to her for a couple of reasons.

“Like many people, it was the first time I had been able to participate since 2019,” Clodfelter said. “I happened to move from North Carolina right at the end of 2019 and move back only toward the end of last year.

“It also happened to fall on my last day of maternity leave. So 4ALL marked a reconnection with North Carolina pro bono after two years of isolation and three months of only thinking about a newborn.”

The calls, she added, gave her a sense of rejoining and reconnecting to her community.

“It reminded me that I had the ability to be helpful, lend some legal advice, or at the very least, be a sounding board and pass along additional materials,” Clodfelter said. “One caller had clearly done a lot of research on her own and come to the conclusion that, while she had a breach of contract case, it was barred by the statute of limitations.

“It was clear that she was more frustrated than anything, and she needed someone to listen and sympathize more than give any legal direction. We talked through all the potential exceptions, potential referrals, and possible next steps. When it came down to it, she decided the best plan of action was to write a letter to the person who had breached the contract, set out her feelings, and then let it go.

“Another caller simply needed help in a negotiation. She needed a referral but wasn’t sure who to ask. It was as easy as passing her a name and phone number, but we ended up talking for a few more minutes about the trouble with understanding legal terms and consequences. It was a good reminder to be careful that any law or legal process does not overwhelm its purpose.

“All of the calls were a wonderful way to remember why I love the practice of law and the practice of law in this legal community. It’s always been about the people you meet along the way. I’m looking forward to being at next year’s 4ALL in person, but it was important to me that I could participate this year with my newborn sitting beside me.”

Diana Santos Johnson pictured in the office serving in her office.Diana Santos Johnson practices with Waldrep Wall Babcock & Bailey PLLC in Winston-Salem. She is a longtime 4ALL volunteer and, echoing the sentiments of colleagues, appreciated the opportunity to participate through the virtual format and is excited about gathering in person next year.

“I was so glad to participate in the 4ALL Statewide Service Day this year,” Johnson said. “I have participated in many, many 4ALL Statewide Service Days, and I always enjoy speaking with North Carolinians who desperately want to speak to attorneys about legal issues that they may have been dealing with for a long time.

“As someone who grew up in Eastern North Carolina, I understand how difficult it can be to find an attorney. I appreciate the North Carolina Bar Foundation’s commitment to serving our state through this program.

“4ALL in Greensboro was the last in-person event I participated in before the world shut down in March 2020. Participating this year, even in a virtual format, served as a small reminder that hopefully we are nearing the end of this pandemic.

“I am looking forward to volunteering at next year’s 4ALL Statewide Service Day in person!”

The 16th annual 4ALL Statewide Service Day will be held on Friday, March 3, 2023.

Russell Rawlings is director of external affairs and communications for the North Carolina Bar Association.