Pro Bono: Making the Choice to Make an Impact
From humble beginnings to the law firm we've become, we remain devoted to helping our communities thrive.
The attorneys of Nexsen Pruet have long understood the importance of choosing to support the communities where we live and work. It is a commitment that dates back to our early years, when Julian Nexsen, for whom our law firm is named, provided legal services free of charge to a wide range of charitable and nonprofit organizations in South Carolina.
Today, we proudly carry on this rich tradition of assisting those who may have limited means to hire legal counsel or may be facing insurmountable obstacles as they seek access to justice.
Our attorneys provide pro bono services to citizens throughout the Carolinas and to organizations dedicated to delivering legal services to those less fortunate. We aim to identify pro bono clients who have both great need and who are most likely to benefit from our capabilities and experience. Cases and matters span a wide range of practice areas and are handled by teams from all eight firm locations.
Nexsen Pruet’s Pro Bono Committee reviews and approves all pro bono work to ensure it reflects firm policies and goals, while representing meaningful, powerful, and enduring opportunities to serve.
Here are a few examples of how our attorneys are making the choice to make an impact:
- Jay participates in the Pro Bono Disaster Legal Services for Legal Aid of North Carolina. To date, Jay has represented six persons whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Florence. In some cases these folks were forced to vacate their dwellings and needed alternative living arrangements. Jay has also handled FEMA issues, dealt with landlords and helped clients straighten out titles to their property so they could get financing from federal agencies or traditional lending sources.
For the Greensboro chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Jay has served six years on the Board of Directors, the last two as Chair and now serves as a committee member of the Building Programs Committee. He has served on that committee for over 15 years and he has also served on the Habitat Advisory Board composed of former chairs since its inception five years ago. Click here to learn more.
- As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum and a member of the Greensboro special needs community, Brian Pearce was excited when he learned about the STAR, Supported Therapies and Recreation center, and the great work that the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro is doing there not for just people with down syndrome, but for all persons with special needs. The Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro is a local to Greensboro non-profit committed to enriching the lives of individuals with Down Syndrome by connecting and educating families and promoting awareness in our community. As part of this mission, the Down Syndrome Network of Greater Greensboro has formed and opened The STAR. The STAR: Supported Therapies and Recreation is a center that offers free therapies, recreational, social, and educational events, inclusive opportunities and more to individuals with disabilities throughout the greater Greensboro Area. Featuring a sensory gym, fully accessible kitchen, and a comfortable, welcoming vibe, The STAR is quickly becoming a vibrant, joyful part of Greensboro's dis- and differently-abled community. Click here to learn more.
- Though she's still relatively new to practicing law, Maressa Cuenca has hit the ground running with her pro bono efforts via her work with South Carolina's Lighthouse for Life. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world today, with more than 40,000,000 victims – a number that's growing by the second. Lighthouse for Life exists to educate people about the realities of human trafficking in the US while restoring victims to wholeness. Click here to learn more.
- When Norman Shearin came to Nexsen Pruet in 2017, he brought with him a pro bono case he’s been working on for more than 35 years. Norm, with assistance from Lisa Sumner, Brian Pearce and Brian Lewis, serves as pro bono counsel for a family that has lived on a coastal tract of North Carolina for nearly a century, spanning multiple generations. In 1921, the family inherited the property from an ancestor who died intestate and has resided on the property continuously since that time. More than a decade ago, a Delaware corporation owned by unrelated parties purchased quitclaim deeds as a speculative investment from two remote descendants of a common ancestor. In 2006, the corporation filed a partition action in Currituck County, North Carolina. Since then, two appeals in the action have reached the North Carolina Supreme Court, resulting in opinions that have been discussed in CLE presentations, manuscripts and legal treatises. The case is back in Currituck County on remand and trial preparation is underway. Click here to learn more.
- For the last several months, Ron Jones has been providing financial consultation and restructuring advice to Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corporation, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt, non-profit organization that delivers health care and human services to the residents of the Sea Islands and surrounding communities to sustain healthy lifestyles and living conditions. Services are primarily for the poor and indigent persons and include Home Health Care, Medical Adult Daycare, Home Hospice Care and Durable Medical Equipment. It is DHEC/Medicare certified and licensed and owns a 90-bed nursing home facility operated on its campus. Click here to learn more.
- Lisa P. Sumner (pictured below) has been volunteering for Legal Aid of North Carolina's Lawyer on the Line program for a few years now, helping one client each month. Lawyer on the Line is a partnership of the North Carolina Bar Foundation and Legal Aid of North Carolina. It gives private attorneys an easy way to provide basic legal advice and service to Legal Aid clients. Volunteers serve thousands of clients every year who have nowhere else to turn. Click here to learn more.
- Over the last nine years, John Zimmer has been volunteering with the Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR) in Charlotte. He has been working specifically with CFCR’s Custody Advocacy Program (CAP). Through CAP, CFCR and its volunteers are appointed by the court as best interest attorneys and advocates for children involved in high conflict custody cases in Mecklenburg County. Click here to learn more.
- When Margaret Burnham’s oldest daughter, Madeline, was in second grade, the big event in her life was Madeline’s First Communion at her church. So Margaret trundled off to the Franciscan bookstore in downtown Greensboro to find all the white lacy things that go with First Communion. At the bookstore, she saw a full scale 3D model of what was to become St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Inc., an interfaith retreat center on 140 acres in Rockingham County. Click here to learn more.
- For the last five years, David Robinson has been working on the Veterans Life Center (VLC), a 100+ bed facility for homeless and at-risk veterans, which will be the first of its kind. A design-build contract was signed in February, signaling the start of the construction phase for this state-of-the-art residential treatment facility in Butner, North Carolina. Upon completion, the VLC will work with at-risk 21st century veterans to help prevent them from falling into crisis which, among other things, can include chronic homelessness, incarceration, suicide or premature death. Click here to learn more.
- Melissa Spence has focused her pro bono efforts in representing an indigent criminal client in front of the state appellate courts, as well as addressing legal issues that arise from her service as a board member for a local nonprofit organization. Click here to learn more.
- Mike Scott, through his first project with the South Carolina Appellate Practice Project, secured the release of an individual who was originally accused and convicted by the court of drug trafficking in Spartanburg County and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Click here to learn more.
- In early 2018, the S.C. Attorney General launched the Veterans Active/Reserve Legal Outreach (VALOR) program, which works to provide free legal services to veterans and their families. COL William Floyd, a member of the firm’s Employment & Labor Law Group, in his role as Commander of the South Carolina State JAG Corps Detachment, worked with a group to assist nearly 60 veterans, and their spouses, with personal legal matters. Judge David G. Guyton, who conducted the inaugural event, summarized his praise of the program, saying, “Gentlemen, simply put, you positively changed lives for a lot of Veterans and their families yesterday.” Nexsen Pruet also supplied IT support for the event.
- Columbia litigation partner Marc Manos has helped SC non-profit Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, Inc. located in Chapin, SC, negotiate with a retailer for distribution of a software program. The software program helps spot grade level deficits in elementary, middle school and high school and actually prepares a plan for how to improve them. The non-profit has helped turn around underperforming districts or schools in Alabama, Arkansas and Indiana.
- David Robinson, attorney in Nexsen Pruet’s Raleigh office, was named 2014 Flag Day Volunteer of the Year by the Veterans Leadership Council of North Carolina – CARES. In recognition of the honor, he was presented the “Flag Patch Plaque” – so-called because it contains a real U.S. Army Flag Shoulder Patch worn in combat in Iraq. Robinson, on behalf of firm pro bono client Veterans Leadership Council, closed the largest HUD Community Development Block Grant ever awarded in NC. The proceeds are being used to renovate a large complex in Butner, NC for use as a transitional housing and treatment facility for homeless veterans and their families. The public-private partnership Robinson created includes VLC, the Town of Butner, the NC Department of Commerce, HUD, the VA, the NC Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center, DHHS, and several area Universities and private treatment facilities.
- Jim Rourke, a member of the firm’s Tax Practice Group and a Captain in the South Carolina National Guard, works with the Guard’s family support groups to provide tax-related assistance to veterans and their families during and after deployments.
- Charleston Litigation partner Bruce Wallace recently served as pro bono counsel to argue a motion to amend a criminal sentence in US District Court. Based on medical evidence supporting an amended sentence that did not include imprisonment, the Court amended the defendant’s sentence to time served and tailored conditions for supervised release, including specific medical treatment and counseling. Bruce also volunteers as a mentor for the US Probation Office’s federal drug court known as the Bridge Program.