Over 500 lawyers from across North Carolina were planning to gather March 2 to give away free advice.
It was part of the North Carolina Bar Association’s 11th annual 4All Statewide Service Day.
During the service day, lawyers work three hour shifts in call centers throughout the state and answer legal questions from any person who calls the hotline number from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The NCBA said they were expecting to answer about 10,000 phone calls over the course of the day.
Conversations vary from trying to determine whether or not the caller has a legal issue, to determining what sort of lawyer the caller may need to sometimes getting an answer for the caller right there on the spot.
The event was started in 2007 by then-NCBA president Janet Ward Black.
“I wanted to do something that would help members of the public not be afraid of lawyers,” Black said. “I wanted to get people’s questions answered, but at the same time, really show people how civic-minded lawyers are.”
Black said she was surprised how the event took off, but said that she was more surprised by how the lawyers who participated reacted.
“When people left their shifts, they were just glowing and saying, ‘That helped remind me why I went to law school,’ and ‘It was just so great to help people think through their problems for three hours.’”
Black said she wouldl be participating in this year’s event in Greensboro, which is just one of seven locations in the state. The event will also be based out of Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greenville, Raleigh and Wilmington.
Many of the call centers are based out of television stations which promote the service live on air as the participating lawyers take calls.
Caryn McNeill, the NCBA’s current president was the 4All Task Force co-chair back when it started in 2007.
She said one thing many lawyers like about the event is that it is an easy way to do good for somebody else, without having to give up too much time.
“It’s born out out of our best instincts, an impulse for service or desire to do pro bono,” McNeill said. “Projects like these are attractive to volunteers because they can be accomplished in a limited amount of time.”
She said many attorneys do not realize going into it how much they wind up enjoying themselves.
“It’s great fun. The volunteers truly enjoy the experience. There’s a fun spree decor to the effort and if folks don’t know the answer to a question, there’s almost always somebody else in the room who does,” McNeill said.
Nicolette Fulton, an Associate Raleigh City Attorney and member of the NCBA wrote in a blog post why she looks forward to the event every year.
“4All is an opportunity for attorneys to help someone on an individual basis, which is often missing when an attorney’s day-to-day work is to represent the government or large organizations,” Fulton said.
Black said one of her favorite parts about the event is that it allows volunteers a chance to make a difference while remaining mostly anonymous.
“I think I like being on the phone with somebody who’ll never know who I am, but that person leaves feeling better about their circumstances,” she said.
To volunteer for next year’s event, check the NCBA’s website: https://www.ncbarfoundation.org/our-work/4all/public/ or call 1-800-662-7407.