The North Carolina Bar Foundation held its 15th annual 4ALL Statewide Service Day, which Smith Anderson attorneys Caryn McNeill and Martin Brinkley helped found, on March 4. More than 318 attorneys and 55 paralegal and law student volunteers came together to provide free legal information and resources to 7,387 callers.
Starting in 2008, 4ALL was named for the concept that justice and legal access should be available “for all” and helps increase access for North Carolina residents who either cannot afford to speak to a lawyer or are shut out by other obstacles, according to NCBA President Jon Heyl. As part of their launch of the program 15 years ago, Caryn and Martin set up partnerships with community centers and television stations across the state in order for news anchors to promote 4ALL on live TV. During pre-Covid years, TV stations broadcasted hundreds of lawyers seated at phone banks, answering calls to bring justice and access to others in need.
“Even when it seems to me that I haven’t offered much that is truly helpful, callers seem to feel better for having had a chance to talk their issue through and brainstorm next steps,” Caryn said.
She fielded calls in the areas of business and contracts, and the questions from callers ran the gamut from identity theft to faulty consumer goods to leaky roofs to higher property tax bills.
“My last caller spoke with another volunteer earlier in the day and called back to let him know that she’d solved her problem when she’d called the agency he suggested during the time slot he’d suggested,” Caryn said. “People helping people is what pro bono is really about. And it is why the first Friday in March is my favorite day of the year to be a North Carolina lawyer.”