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4ALL: Talk to Lawyers In Real Time, For Free

4ALL: Talk to Lawyers In Real Time, For Free

The North Carolina Bar Foundation’s 4ALL Statewide Service Day, scheduled for March 2, gives North Carolinians the opportunity to ask law-related questions of attorney volunteers at no cost. Hundreds of N.C. attorney volunteers answer calls throughout the day, an annual tradition since 2008.

By Nicolette Fulton

Nicolette Fulton

The first Friday in March is blocked on my calendar. I am a 4ALL Statewide Service Day volunteer. Across the state, hundreds of attorney volunteers like me staff seven call centers where they will to respond to about 10,000 callers from across the state. It’s a full day!

Callers can find the phone numbers for call centers near them on the NC Bar Foundation’s website at www.4ALLnc.org  on March 2. Call centers are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except in Wilmington, where they will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) Call centers are located around the state in Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Raleigh and Wilmington.

For volunteer attorneys, the hours roll by on 4ALL Day as call volume ebbs and flows. While each call is supposed to be a relatively quick question-and-answer exchange, I would be lying if I said I followed that rule all of the time. On the other end of the phone is a person, a human being, seeking help or an answer to an important legal question affecting their lives. One of the hardest calls I ever answered during 4ALL was from a woman trying to make a new way for her and her children by escaping an abusive spouse. She had to make the call to 4ALL while her husband was at work. Another memorable call I took was from an elderly lady who had recently lost her husband, and did not know what to do to get her legal affairs in order. The phone calls run the gamut. There may be tears, there may be laughs, and there will most definitely be a “thank you.” Sometimes, all the caller needs is somebody to listen.

4ALL is an opportunity for attorneys to help someone on an individual basis, which is often missing when an attorney’s day-to-day work is to represent the government or large organizations. With short three-hour shifts, a volunteer has a chance to help someone by answering a question, providing information or referring them to the NCBA Lawyer Referral Service. For me, 4ALL feels like the opportunity to help 10,000 people in one day.

At 7 p.m. when 4ALL ends, I look forward to the next year, when I can again be there for some of those 10,000 callers who are seeking answers, information, somebody … help.

Associate Raleigh City Attorney Nicolette Fulton is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and a faithful 4ALL volunteer.