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Contributing to the Public Good

The term pro bono derives from the Latin phrase “pro bono publico” and means “for the public good.”  As a counterpart to a lawyer’s privilege of practicing law, there should be a commitment to promoting justice and ensuring justice is equally accessible to all people. As a part of their career, all lawyers should render some type of legal services without a fee for the public good.  Pro bono service is needed now more than ever from legal professionals given our current nationwide economic challenges and ever changing family resources and structures.  In many cases, only lawyers have the knowledge and expertise needed to be able to help those with unmet legal needs.

The overwhelming need for pro bono legal services is well documented and nearly every state has an ethical rule encouraging attorneys to contribute pro bono legal services.  North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 provides,  “every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.”  The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Pro Bono Attorney Program offers one such way for attorneys to contribute to the public good through representation of one of our most vulnerable populations—children.

In 1983, the North Carolina General Assembly established the Office of Guardian ad Litem Services as a division of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. The North Carolina GAL program represents more than 15,000 children who have pending cases of alleged abuse, neglect, or dependency each year.  The GAL Pro Bono Attorney Program represents a significant number of these children in appeals before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  In 2013, 103 pro bono attorneys assisted with the representation of children in the 185 GAL cases that were appealed. 

Attorneys who donate their legal expertise and time to represent abused, neglected, and dependent juveniles on appeal are integral to the NCGAL Program’s mandate to represent children’s best interest.  The GAL Pro Bono Attorney Program uses a collaborative model of volunteer appellate attorneys and state office staff, who support these attorneys.  This model ensures abused and neglected children have a voice and zealous legal representation if their case is appealed.   The contributions of time and legal skills made by our pro bono attorneys is unparalleled and indispensable.

There is still much more work to do.  Now more than ever, North Carolina children need committed advocates at all levels of their cases.  April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.  Governor Pat McCrory has also proclaimed this month as North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Child Advocate Month.  In celebration of this honor, will you help us meet our goal of recruiting 25 new pro bono appellate attorneys?  If you can be the voice for a child and advocate for healthy and safe outcomes for children with cases of abuse and neglect please join us in action. 

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Pro Bono Attorney Program please contact our Appellate Counsel, Tawanda Foster at 919-890-1255 or Tawanda.n.foster@nccourts.org.  You may also find us on the web at www.ncgal.org or on Facebook as “NC Guardian ad Litem.” 

Tawanda started her career as a criminal prosecutor, then later served the State as an Assistant Attorney General for the North Carolina Department of Justice. In her current role as Appellate Counsel, at the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts, Tawanda is responsible for managing all the guardian ad litem appellate cases from across the state and a growing pro bono program.

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