Scott Oostdyk and Angie Zimmern.
A groundbreaking initiative that makes legal services more accessible to low-income Charlotte residents will continue expanding thanks to a pro bonocollaboration led by McGuireWoods, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, Moore & Van Allen, and Husqvarna.
The Charlotte Triage project marked its second anniversary Oct. 1, 2020, with virtual CLE training sessions attended by more than 350 legal and other professionals. Later that evening, the Pro Bono Institute formally honored Charlotte Triage with the 2020 Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award during PBI’s virtual awards gala. The national award recognizes innovative pro bono partnerships between law firms, in-house legal departments and public interest organizations.
Charlotte Triage supports Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte and the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy by enabling the legal aid organizations to outsource work to private-practice lawyers and in-house counsel for eviction defense, healthcare enrollment, criminal record expunctions and human trafficking. In its third year, the program will expand to assist individuals with driver’s license restorations and access to Social Security benefits. In addition, Triage volunteers continue to help families impacted by the COVID-19 crisis by negotiating rent forgiveness for those forced to shelter in motels during the pandemic.
“I’m proud to say that Charlotte Triage, through the work of our dedicated volunteers, has made a tremendous impact on the lives of hundreds of citizens of our city in the past two years, and the impact of the work continues to grow,” said David Leitch, global general counsel of Bank of America, who addressed volunteers before the Oct. 1 CLE sessions began.
Charlotte Triage grew out of a first-of-its-kind pro bono initiative launched in 2017 that made Richmond, Virginia, the first U.S. city to outsource legal aid matters in 12 practice areas. Scott Oostdyk, McGuireWoods’ pro bono partner liaison, played a lead role developing Richmond Triage. He and Leitch led the effort to expand the project to Charlotte. McGuireWoods pro bono director Angie Zimmern co-leads the management committee that oversees Charlotte Triage’s day-to-day operations. Since the inception of Charlotte Triage, the program has trained more than 400 volunteers to provide pro bono services to legal aid clients.
The national honor from the Pro Bono Institute is the latest recognition Charlotte Triage has earned for exemplary pro bono service. The Mecklenburg County Bar presented Charlotte Triage with its “Collaborative Pro Bono Project Award” in 2019 and the North Carolina State Bar honored Charlotte Triage with its “Outstanding Pro Bono Collaborative Service” award in 2020. PBI invited Charlotte Triage leaders to lead a panel, “Building a Second Ring of Legal Aid: Triage Pro Bono” at its 2019 conference, explaining how others can build their own Triage programs.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from volunteer lawyers and legal professionals who have committed time to helping our neighbors with critical legal needs,” said Zimmern. “Those needs will continue to grow as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, making Charlotte Triage more important than ever.”