Campbell Law School’s Blanchard Community Law Clinic has already had a large impact on the local community.The clinic has handled more than 100 cases, including expunctions, family disputes, domestic violence protection orders, landlord/tenant issues, and many others. The “triage clinic,” as described by Campbell Law Dean, J. Rich Leonard, launched in September of 2016. The clinic takes referrals from area nonprofit agencies – Raleigh Rescue Mission, Urban Ministries of Wake County and StepUp Ministry. Legal services are provided by Campbell Law Students, who work in the clinic’s office which is housed in the historic Horton-Beckham-Bretsch House. Ashley Campbell, trial attorney with Ragsdale Liggett serves as clinic director. We had a chance to learn more about Ashley and the great work she’s doing with the clinic.
LM: You are an attorney with Ragsdale Liggett. How long have you been with the firm and what types of cases do you typically handle?
AC: I have been practicing at Ragsdale Liggett for 13 years. I am primarily a business litigator and handle cases involving complex business matters, business and real estate litigation. I especially enjoy professional malpractice cases and occasionally represent Lawyers Mutual’s insureds.
LM: How did you begin leading the Blanchard Community Law Clinic at Campbell Law School?
AC: Campbell Law School established the Blanchard Community Law Clinic in 2016 for the purpose of providing pro bono legal services to clients of non-profits who were trying to improve their lives, but had some legal barrier that was preventing them from doing that. I was immediately drawn to the mission of the clinic, and also to teaching. When Dean Rich Leonard told me about the position in June 2016, I knew it was something I wanted to do.
LM: The clinic’s name bears great significance. Can you share some of the history behind the name of the clinic?
AC: The clinic is named after legal legend Charlie Blanchard, who blessed us with a significant gift in 2017. Charlie is a former President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the Wake County Bar Association and Tenth Judicial District Bar. Charlie was also the first President of the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association.
Charlie is committed to providing pro bono opportunities to Wake County lawyers and his gift is intended to grow the clinic’s volunteer lawyers program. Charlie’s gift put the clinic on sound financial footing and will allow us to continue our work for many years to come.
LM: The clinic works with local nonprofit agencies. Can you tell us how that relationship works?
AC: When non-profits are working with clients and trying to help their clients get back on their feet, they often realize that the client has some legal issue that is preventing the client from moving forward. The non-profit will then call us and we will step in and help if we can. Currently, our primary referral partners are StepUp Ministry, the Raleigh Rescue Mission, Urban Ministries and Alliance Medical Ministry.
LM: What types of legal services are provided through the clinic?
AC: We handle all types of cases. Some of the most prevalent are expunctions and drivers license restoration. More than 1 million people in North Carolina have had their drivers license suspended for failure to appear in court or failure to pay fines. We help people get their licenses restored so that they can obtain better jobs and support their families.
LM: You also teach a course at Campbell Law School to guide students through their work. What does the course cover?
AC: The classroom component of the clinical course teaches the practical aspects of the law including client intake, interviewing, case investigation and analysis. We also cover poverty law topics so that students understand the difficulties low income clients face which builds greater empathy in the representation of clients.
LM: Why is this clinic so important to the community?
AC: Many low income people go without legal services because they cannot afford to obtain those services in the private market. This means that justice is not accessible to the poorest among us. The clinic aims to bridge that gap and provide access to the justice system for those in our community.
LM: What do you enjoy most about your work with the clinic and the law students?
AC: The students at Campbell Law School are just fantastic, and I love working with them. Their energy, intelligence and enthusiasm for the law reminds me of how it felt to be a new lawyer. Working with our students gives me faith in the future of our profession.
LM: What do you hope students gain from their work at the clinic?
AC: Our goal is for students to leave the clinic and have the practical skills necessary to step right into legal practice and hit the ground running. They know how to draft correspondence, maintain client files in electronic and hard copy form, document the representation and represent clients in court.
Additionally, my hope is that they leave the clinic with greater empathy for the experience of low income people and a life long commitment to pro bono.
LM: Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to add?
AC: After 15 years of legal practice, I enjoy practicing law more than ever. Working with great clients and claims professionals is part of what makes the work so fulfilling. This is why I appreciate working with Lawyers Mutual’s claims professionals and insureds so much.