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Gaston County Volunteer Lawyers recognized for pro bono service in 2009!!!

Gaston County VLP 2009 pro bono honoreesThree Gaston County lawyers and one Gaston County law firm were recognized for the legal services they provided to the indigent through their local Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) at the Gaston County Bar meeting on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. [Pictured at right, l-r: front row: John Russell, Shantel Boone, Jerry Liska; back row: Sonya McGraw and Dolph Sumner. ]

Shantel BooneShantel Boone and the law firm of Mullen Holland Cooper (MHC) were presented with the Volunteer Lawyers Program's Distinguished Service Awards. Boone, an associate at MHC, led the group with over 50 hours of service to indigent clients. The firm as a whole provided over 150 hours of service to VLP clients, mainly in the areas of unemployment benefits, wills and advanced directives, and family law cases.

Sonya C. McGraw, previously with the law firm of Ferguson and McGraw, and Mark Warshawsky, a solo practitioner, were presented with VLP Service Awards. Both attorneys provided legal services in difficult, prolonged custody cases. McGraw, now attorney for the Gaston County School Board, received VLP service awards in the past, while this was Warshawsky's first recognition for outstanding service in the pro bono area.

The awards were presented by long-time coordinator for the VLP, Becki Lowder.

Long known for its commitment to serving a large poverty population, the Gaston County Bar again provided a high number of hours in the areas of family law, as well as helping with a significantly growing number of unemployment benefits cases. The increase in unemployment benefits cases is easily explained by noting Gaston County's extremely high incidence of job losses in the past two years. The unemployment percentage number topped 13-14% during the past year and was one of the highest in North Carolina.

Other areas served by the Gaston County VLP include wills and related documents, tax matters, and consumer cases. Financial eligibility and case merit are considerations for client entry into the program.

The Gaston County VLP is a part of the local Legal Aid of North Carolina-Gastonia Office.

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