McGuireWoods Launches ‘Charlotte Triage’ To Expand Community Pro Bono Legal Services

September 25, 2018

In collaboration with clients Bank of America, Duke Energy and Wells Fargo, McGuireWoods is part an innovative program to expand pro bono services for low-income Charlotte residents and ease the burden on local legal aid organizations.

The group launched Charlotte Triage with McGuireWoods hosting a Sept. 5 CLE training event that attracted more than 300 legal and other professionals.

Charlotte Triage is designed to allow local legal aid groups to outsource work to law firms and in-house counsel in three areas most in need of pro bono help: housing evictions, healthcare enrollment, and expunging criminal convictions from the records of workers looking for jobs.

The program is an expansion of the Triage Project, a first-of-its-kind pro bono initiative begun in 2017 that made Richmond the first U.S. city to outsource legal aid matters in 12 practices, thereby allowing legal aid groups to focus their scarce resources on other core areas. It earned McGuireWoods a “Highly Commended” rating in Financial Times’ prestigious 2017 North America Innovative Lawyers report and helped propel the firm to a No. 3 overall ranking.

Scott Oostdyk, McGuireWoods’ partner in charge of pro bono who developed the Triage Project, said the idea of expanding it to Charlotte arose after he recently reviewed “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Princeton University professor Matthew Desmond. The book details the struggles of families in cities like Charlotte after the 2008 financial crisis.

“It confirmed the approach we were taking in Richmond — that clients have to be defended vigorously against unwarranted eviction,” Oostdyk said. Shortly after the Triage Project began in Richmond, he said, he and David Leitch, global general counsel of Bank of America, discussed expanding the project to Charlotte, particularly to fight homelessness.

To tailor the concept to Charlotte’s legal aid needs, Oostdyk and Leitch worked with a task force co-chaired by Bank of America assistant general counsel Todd Stillerman; McGuireWoods senior counsel Angie Zimmern, who co-coordinates pro bono efforts for the Charlotte office; representatives from Duke Energy, Husqvarna, Wells Fargo, and Moore & Van Allen; and members of Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

The Sept. 5 kickoff event included remarks from Leitch, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Duke Energy vice president and chief litigation officer Vijay Bondada, and Jim Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp. Volunteers also received CLE training to assist pro bono clients in the three core areas, with McGuireWoods Charlotte lawyers Amanda Colley and Andrew Parrish leading the session on expunction eligibility in North Carolina; Julieanne Taylor and Johanna Parra Diaz of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy leading the session on healthcare enrollment; and Thomas Holderness and Isaac Sturgill of Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte leading the session on tenant evictions.

McGuireWoods Charlotte partner Robert Muckenfuss and senior counsel Carter Arey coordinate lawyer support for Charlotte Triage; partner Mark Kinghorn serves as housing “champion” along with representatives from Bank of America and Moore & Van Allen.

The firm has teamed with clients on more than two dozen pro bono partnerships globally, investing more than 30,000 hours annually on legal services involving housing, domestic violence, capital punishment, immigration, juvenile justice, legal assistance to nonprofits and veterans issues.