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NC Bar Association receives national awards for 4-All efforts

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The North Carolina Bar Association and the NCBA Foundation received two national awards on Friday, Aug. 1, in recognition of their efforts to provide legal services to the poor through the 4ALL Campaign

The awards were presented in Chicago in conjunction with annual meetings of the American Bar Association, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the National Association of Bar Executives and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

The Harrison Tweed Award, given annually by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, was presented to the NCBA.

The National Conference of Bar Foundation’s Excellence in Public Service Award was presented to the NCBA Foundation.

Past-President Janet Ward Black of Greensboro accepted the Tweed Award on behalf of the NCBA. President-Elect Gene Pridgen of Charlotte, who previously served as chair of the Development Committee, accepted the Excellence in Public Service Award on behalf of the NCBA Foundation.

The Harrison Tweed Award was created in 1956 to recognize the extraordinary achievements of state and local bar associations that develop or significantly expand projects or programs to increase access to civil legal services for poor persons or criminal defense services for indigents.

"I am excited for all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make this program a success,” said Black in regard to an effort that was the centerpiece of her term as president in 2007-08. “I am particularly pleased that this recognition would give us an opportunity to talk about what North Carolina has done through the 4ALL program so that we can provide that information to others and allow them to make use of what we have created.”

It is a creation of many parts, all of which point in the direction of lawyers providing service and support to those who need it the most and can afford it the least. Those lawyers include the countless hundreds who have served in leadership and volunteer capacities throughout the existence of the 4ALL endeavor, from the chairs of the 4ALL Task Force working groups to the attorneys, paralegals and law students who staffed call centers on the Statewide Service Day.

It also includes the staff attorneys of Legal Aid of North Carolina and other legal services providers who toil daily to provide counsel to a growing segment of this state’s population who live in poverty, and the firms and individual lawyers who have contributed almost $900,000 to the LANC Fund.

“The fact that the foundation and the association are both being recognized for the same program says a lot about the comprehensiveness of the program,” Black added. “In addition to legislation and education, we have had an increase of almost 20 percent in the endowment on behalf of Legal Aid of North Carolina, part of which will go toward the repayment of student loans for legal aid attorneys.

“And we also witnessed the single largest volunteer effort in bar association history.”

The NCBF Award for Bar Foundation Excellence in Public Service Programming, recognizes a bar foundation for an innovative, imaginative program and/or grant award for public service projects in the legal arena. The award honors a bar or law foundation for its creative response to important societal issues.

“The Excellence in Public Service Award was appropriate recognition of our Bar Foundation's significant part in supporting the 4ALL program,” Pridgen said. “The 4ALL program was a wonderful example of how our Bar Foundation can be used to provide funds to worthy law-related programs.”

The example has not been lost on other states, many of which are considering aspects of the 4ALL approach in their own efforts to provide legal services to the poor. Just this spring the Tennessee Bar Association adopted the entire 4ALL concept, logo and all, in launching its first statewide service day.

“These are good works that deserve recognition,” Black concluded, “and we hope it will be a model for the rest of the country.”
 

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