Three huge projects. One unprecedented year. Despite the challenges and legal boom of 2020, Robinson Bradshaw took charge in their pro bono initiatives. For their unyielding commitment to pro bono service demonstrated by their undertaking of several complex and impactful projects during 2020, the North Carolina Bar Association granted Robinson Bradshaw the Law Firm Pro Bono Award with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s nomination.
In the first project, Robinson Bradshaw successfully litigated against the Lake Arbor Apartments with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the North Carolina Justice Center. Led by Julian Wright, the firm was instrumental in securing over $547,000 in settlement funds for tenants who were forced to pay rent for sub-standard housing. Wright says: “Where you live is important. For a lot of people, it’s the base of their life, it’s the place from where they go out into the world and do things they want to do, it’s where families are raised.”
Overall, Julian Wright, Caroline Reinwald, Tami Redi, Adam Wehler, Adam Doerr, Andy Tarr, David Wright, Erik Zimmerman, Satyra Riggins and Jake Raynor donated 510 hours of legal services to the Lake Arbor case. Because of these advocates’ tireless commitment, class members were reimbursed for rent paid and compensated for the violation of their rights as tenants. Furthermore, Robinson Bradshaw set a strong precedent of preserving safe and affordable housing in the Charlotte area—a key issue in the region.
Robinson Bradshaw’s second project creatively bolstered pro bono resources to represent The Advocacy Center in a real estate transaction to acquire our new building. The effort was led by Robinson Bradshaw’s Jane Ratteree, who focuses her pro bono initiatives on “helping organizations that in turn help individuals.” It is important for The Advocacy Center “to have a more dignified space. To show the clients that they are valued as clients, that they are coming to a place that’s going to treat them well and do a good job for them,” Ratteree says. Ratteree’s service will make a monumental impact on Charlotte’s legal services community, ensuring that The Advocacy Center’s staff have a modern office space for our expanding programs. Ratteree contributed nearly 250 hours to this effort.
In the third project, Robinson Bradshaw, led by attorney Adam Doerr, successfully litigated on behalf of low-income families against the State of North Carolina to ensure eligible low-income families with children would receive $335 dollars in COVID-19 relief. Almost 25,000 low-income residents applied to receive the grant after a court ordered the State to re-open the deadline for low-income families to apply, resulting in over $5 million for those most in need.
“When we realized that many of the families most in need would miss out on these critical pandemic relief funds, we knew that the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy would have the expertise and resources to help us manage the kind of impact litigation and outreach campaign needed to ensure that these state grants actually got to the low-income families in our community,” said Doerr.
He and the Robinson Bradshaw team were attentive, swift and impressive. However, Doerr’s commitment to the successful execution of the project demonstrates his and the firm’s innovative approach to wholistic pro bono service. Doerr and team recognized that their litigative efforts were only part of the picture and did not rest until as many eligible families received the grant as possible, including negotiating contracts with a web development company and national call center provider to handle a statewide outreach effort. Overall, Robinson Bradshaw donated 581 hours to this effort.
In addition to these impactful projects, Robinson Bradshaw as a firm has donated 1,293 hours of legal services to low-income clients through the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program over the years. Robinson Bradshaw routinely has several attorneys inducted to the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Honor Roll (requires either 20 hours of service or closure of three cases in the previous year) and the NC Pro Bono Honor Society (requires at least 50 hours of service in the previous year). Robinson Bradshaw attorneys undertake pro bono cases in areas such as wills, consumer protection, access to healthcare, immigration and others.
Julian Wright, Jane Ratteree, Adam Doerr and Robinson Bradshaw’s commitment to serving low-income families in North Carolina through these complex projects demonstrates the firm’s innovative and comprehensive approach to pro bono service. They go beyond individual case referrals to ensure the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community has equal access to justice and civil legal aid. We applaud their creative leadership of non-traditional pro bono initiatives and hope that Robinson Bradshaw’s efforts inspire other firms in the area. Congratulations!