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NC Bar Association's 4ALL Garners ABA Recognition

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), in recognition of the4ALL Campaign, has been selected as a 2009 recipient of the American Bar Association’s Harrison Tweed Award.

Given annually by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) , the award will be presented in Chicago on Friday, July 31, during the ABA Annual Meeting at a joint luncheon of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the National Association of Bar Executives and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

The 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.

Past-President Janet Ward Black of Greensboro will accept the award on behalf of the NCBA. The 4ALL Campaign to expand the provision of legal services to the poor in North Carolina was the centerpiece of her term as president in 2007-08 and remains a major objective of the NCBA.

“This is thrilling news for the North Carolina Bar Association and everyone who has been involved with this important endeavor,” said current NCBA President Charles Becton. “There are so many people who deserve credit for this award, which is a true testament to Janet Ward Black for her vision and leadership.

“Let us also give full credit to the NCBA’s Strategic Planning and Emerging Trends Committee, which formulated the concept for this program, and the individuals who served as co-chairs of the 4ALL Task Force in 2007-08 and 2008-09.”

Raleigh attorneys Caryn McNeill and Martin Brinkley served as co-chairs of the 4ALL Task Force in 2007-08 with Rebecca Britton of Fayetteville, Kim Sieredzki of Clayton and Dayton Cole of Boone serving as tri-chairs in 2008-09.

Becton’s recognition of volunteer leadership from two separate years is in reference to the timetable for which the award was judged: April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009. During this 12-month period, the NCBA conducted two statewide service days through which thousands of North Carolina citizens received free legal information through an expansive network of call centers across the state.

The first Statewide Service Day was conducted on April 4, 2008, and was promoted as the 4/4 Service Day. The second of these events was held on March 6, 2009, lending itself to promotion as the 3/6/9 Service Day.

The success of both events was built upon the foundation of volunteer leadership of numerous site chairs and the Participate Working Group co-chairs under whom the service days were organized. Joshua Bennett and Michael Slipsky served in this capacity in 2007-08, succeeded by working group co-chairs Katherine Wilkerson and Sara Palmer in 2008-09.

Members of the N.C. Bar Center staff played key roles, as did the various call center hosts and contributors that provided facilities and support to make the endeavor possible.

WLOS News 13 in Asheville, WBTV News 3 in Charlotte, WFMY News 2 and The Volunteer Center of Greensboro and Williams Mullen of Wilmington hosted call centers both years.

BB&T of Winston-Salem, WCTI News 12 of New Bern, ACS (Affiliated Computer Services) Inc. of Cary, Advanced Internet Technologies (AIT), Inc. of Fayetteville and the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association were the leading providers of facilities and support in 2008, with WRAL-TV 5 of Raleigh serving as a call center host in 2009.

Add in hundreds of volunteer lawyers, supported by legal aid attorneys, judges, paralegals and law students, and the recipe for success was firmly in place.

“This truly is the story of the turtle being on top of the fence-post,” stated Janet Ward Black. “He did not get there by himself! From the initial groundwork and ongoing strategy that the first 4ALL Task Force put into place under the leadership of Martin and Caryn to our being recognized nationally and copied by others, this has been a team effort.

“Everyone who has played a part thus far is responsible for the NCBA winning this award. That includes the firms and individual lawyers who have contributed to the Legal Aid of North Carolina Fund, where we have raised close to $900,000, to more than 1,000 members who have committed their time and expertise to answer phones during our service day projects.

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

It already is.

The 4ALL Campaign, logo and all, has been adopted by the Tennessee Bar Association, which recently conducted its first statewide service day. Other states are considering adoption of the program, which is a multi-faceted approach to supporting the unmet legal needs of the poor that focuses on education, donation, legislation, participation and repayment of law school loans for LANC staff attorneys.

The goal loan repayment assistance program, or LRAP, is to help Legal Aid of North Carolina retain experienced staff attorneys by eliminating or significantly reducing their law school debt. LANC lawyers, in turn, provide free legal representation for indigents on critical issues such as housing and domestic violence.

“The money our members have raised and contributed will have a lasting impact,” Black added, “especially the dedicated gifts that have been provided to reduce the educational debt for LANC lawyers who have committed their lives to representing poor people for free.

“It just does not get any better than that.”



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