Nicholas Lee is an associate at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP and a dedicated pro bono volunteer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy through the Access to Justice Pro Bono Partners Program.
Beginning in 2014, Nicholas has worked primarily in expunction cases, where his passion in pro bono work has developed.
“My motivation for becoming a lawyer was to have a greater impact on people’s lives,” Lee says. “I’m a firm believer in second chances. I’ve had lots of second chances, and I know how beneficial it can be to have charges expunged.”
Lee not only cherishes that impact he can have in dealing with expunction cases but also appreciates the bond that can be formed with clients.
“For me, the best part of the process is the opportunity to call the client and say everything was granted,” he says. “For some clients it’s one charge and for others it’s 60-70. They’re always ecstatic.”
Through his experience in pro bono work, Lee encourages other attorneys to volunteer with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy through the Charlotte Pro Bono Triage Partnership.
“Pro bono is important for our profession, and we have a responsibility to help whomever we can,” Lee says. “I would encourage people to jump in. CCLA has great resources. And once you’re willing to do it, we have the ability and resources to get you prepared.”
Thank you to Nicholas Lee for your commitment to pro bono work on behalf of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy!
NCBA to Recognize Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership at Annual Meeting
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is proud to announce that
the North Carolina Bar Association has selected the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership
as the 2020 recipient of the Outstanding Pro Bono Collaborative Service Award.
This award is presented annually to a law firm, local,
district or statewide bar organization whose members have engaged in
significant and notable legal services or have contributed outstanding support for
pro bono legal services for low-income individuals.
The Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership collaborates with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte to bring together local law firms and legal departments and address some the most critical legal problems impacting economic mobility in our community.
At least 71 percent of low-income residents in the
Charlotte-Mecklenburg region experienced at least one civil legal problem in
the last year, but only 14 percent were able to get the legal help they needed.
The Triage project began two years ago to expand access to
legal assistance in key areas of need for our community. Through this project,
every client referred has received legal assistance.
Over the past year, attorneys have been working in the key
areas of eviction defense, healthcare access, cleaning up criminal records and
human trafficking—with the goal of increasing safety, financial security and
family stability for all in our community.
“This award recognizes a commendable team of dedicated
volunteers,” said Brandy Haynes, pro bono and community engagement specialist
for the Advocacy Center. “With Triage’s support, our organizations are able to
serve more of our neighbors with essential legal services.”
The N.C. Bar Association plans to recognize the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership during the NCBA Annual Meeting Awards Dinner June 25, in Charlotte.
Project partners include Bank of America, Duke Energy, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, K&L Gates, King & Spaulding, McGuireWoods, Moore & Van Allen, Parker Poe, Robinson Bradshaw and Wells Fargo.
Special thanks to the individual Triage champions leading each legal effort: Angela Zimmern and Todd Stillerman; Mark Kinghorn, Nader Raja and Brett Shockley for housing; Lara Nichols, Fern Patterson and Chris Fernandez for expunctions; John Grupp, Chelsea Corey and Emma Merritt for health care; and Sarah Byrne and Sakeenah Thompson for human trafficking.
2020 Expunction Clinics Kick Off with Help of Triage Partners
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy kicked off its 2020 expunction clinics Jan. 22 with volunteers from the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership to help 15 Mecklenburg County residents apply to have their criminal records expunged.
An expunction (also called an “expungement”) removes minor
offenses and misdemeanors on one’s criminal record that create significant
barriers to economic stability and opportunity.
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps low-income Mecklenburg County residents get their criminal records expunged allowing them to pursue a broader range of economic opportunities.
The expunction clinic was the first of six to be held this
“This is a breath of fresh air,” said Bernard, who had been working toward a new start before coming to the clinic for help.
He heard about the expunction clinic and registered through
Running Works, a Charlotte nonprofit that empowers individuals and families to
break cycles of abuse, abandonment, neglect, poverty and homelessness through
running, career development services, counseling, group therapy and housing
“What I needed the most was to clean up my record instead of giving up,” he said.
Now Bernard is waiting to learn if his application will be
Bernard is one of more than 2 million North Carolina residents living with a criminal record. Too often, these individuals are automatically denied employment, housing, and other opportunities, based on past involvement with the criminal justice system, including dismissed charges and long-ago convictions.
As part of its 2020 Advocacy Agenda, the Advocacy Center supports legislative efforts to expand eligibility for expunctions, such as The Second Chance Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the N.C. Senate last year. We are hopeful that the N.C. House of Representatives will consider and approve this legislation this spring.
Through our individual representation and advocacy, the Advocacy Center seeks to help people with criminal records have a fair chance at productive citizenship.
Special thanks to Lara Nichols and Ann Warren of Duke Energy; Kevin Denny and Justin Knapp of McGuireWoods LLP; Abigail Williams of K&L Gates LLP; Katie Clarke and Fern Patterson of Parker Poe; and Chad Crockford of Wells Fargo for volunteering their time through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership.
Wondering if you are eligible to clean up your criminal record?
Mecklenburg County residents can learn more and register for our upcoming clinics by calling 704-376-1600 ext. 510.
Registration is required to receive assistance. Applicants must not have any pending criminal charges.
Pro Bono Spotlight: Emma Merritt
Emma Merritt is
an associate at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and a dedicated pro bono volunteer
with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy through the Access to Justice Pro Bono
Having done pro
bono work since she became an attorney, Merritt brought her commitment to
service to the Charlotte community. She took her first pro bono case in January
“It is crucial
for those of us with the ability to help to do so,” Merritt says. “I am
grateful that my law firm strongly values pro bono work as well.”
routinely handles appeals cases for denials of Medicaid for the Disabled (MAD)
and Social Security Disability benefits (SSD). She recalls one case where she
assisted a young woman with a debilitating mental illness. Merritt successfully
appealed the denial of her Social Security Disability benefits, enabling her to
continue to pay for her medical and living expenses.
Not only does
Merritt value her pro bono work as a continuous learning opportunity, tackling
all kinds of difficult cases, she enjoys getting to know her individual pro
bono clients” and helping them obtain favorable outcomes.
“It is incredibly rewarding to know that I have made a real difference in a person’s life by helping him or her through a difficult situation,” Merritt says.
commitment to pro bono service, especially with civil legal issues involving healthcare
access, has compelled her to encourage others to volunteer with Charlotte
Center for Legal Advocacy through the Charlotte Pro Bono Triage Partnership.
is a partnership of corporate and private practice lawyers volunteering to
support the area’s two legal service organizations, Charlotte Center for Legal
Advocacy and Legal Aid of North Carolina, in their legal work to serve more
people in need of legal assistance.
Merrit is beginning
her second year serving as a Healthcare Champion through Charlotte Triage,
where she recruits, organizes, and trains volunteers to assist Charlotte
residents in need of help understanding affordable healthcare options with the
Advocacy Center’s Health Insurance Navigator Project.
As part of this
work, Merritt has completed training to be a Certified Health Insurance
Navigator, and she will serve as an Open Enrollment Volunteer Nov. 1 through
Dec. 15, with dozens of other volunteers in the community to ensure those who
can be insured under the Affordable Care Act, have access to assistance that
helps them make informed decisions about health coverage.
“Emma is enthusiastic about her role and always willing to
provide her time and resources,” says Julieanne Taylor, attorney and health
insurance navigator coordinator at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. “Last
year, Emma was a superstar on the last day of Open Enrollment and stayed with
us until the very end. The Navigator Project is so lucky to have Emma on our
Thank-you Emma Merritt for your commitment to pro bono work on behalf of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy!