This month, we celebrate the remarkable pro bono contributions made in our community as we gather with friends supporters for the sixth annual Pro Bono Awards presented by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Council for Children’s Rights, and Legal Aid of North Carolina.
This year’s event will be held at the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts. More information about this event can be found here.
Presented Jointly by
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy/Council for Children’s Rights/Legal Aid of NC/
“There are those among us who, against all odds and with increasingly scarce resources, devote themselves daily to advocating for our children, mending the wounds of racial injustice, protecting the impoverished, and safeguarding legal and human rights all for the benefit of the most vulnerable among us. Doing pro bono work allows me to discharge a tiny part of the debt of gratitude that I owe to those who selflessly and steadfastly perform the necessary work that keeps the arc of our little corner of the universe bending in the right direction.”
Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award
Born in Virginia and raised in Texas, Stephen Allred went to St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he received a B.A. in liberal arts in 1986. He earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia, where he served on The Virginia Law Review’s editorial board. He settled in Charlotte focusing his practice on commercial litigation with an emphasis on insurance coverage matters and joined McGuireWoods LLP in 2008 when it merged with Helms Mulliss & Wicker. He now serves as a deputy general counsel for McGuireWoods.
Allred is married to his best friend, Carolyn, and they have two children. He has been deeply involved in pro bono work since he became a lawyer, taking on a variety of matters as a pro bono attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, representing clients in landlord-tenant disputes, used car cases and other consumer protection claims. Working with Legal Aid and Safe Alliance, he has helped many clients secure domestic violence protective orders. He has also worked on various other pro bono matters over the years, ranging from estate planning workshops for Habitat for Humanity homeowners to, most recently, representing a single mother from Honduras and her daughters in the custody phase of their proceeding seeking special immigrant juvenile status.
For many years, Allred served as his firm’s pro bono coordinator in Charlotte, and he was the pro bono coordinator when the firm formed its partnership with Council for Children’s Rights. He now serves on the firm’s pro bono committee, where he continues to rally lawyers to join the pro bono cause and regularly provides guidance to colleagues on pro bono matters.
Presented by Council for Children’s Rights
Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award
Outstanding Volunteer Service Award
Melissa Kato, an attorney at K&L Gates, is a partner in the firm’s Charlotte office. Kato represents institutional lenders, investors and financial institutions in a variety of secured and unsecured financial transactions. Kato has served as a volunteer pro bono attorney for Council for Children’s Rights on high conflict custody cases since 2009.
She received her J.D., graduating cum laude, from Notre Dame School of Law and earned her B.A. at the University of Michigan.
Elizabeth Hindal is a Senior Vice President and Strategic Planning Manager at Wells Fargo, working in information security. Elizabeth serves as a Council for Children’s Rights volunteer custody advocate, partnering with a volunteer attorney to determine, through interviews and visits, what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the children involved in the case.
A graduate of Ithaca College, she is an avid distance runner, having completed about 25 full marathons, and she also enjoys sewing. Elizabeth and her husband Mark, a process improvement consultant, have one daughter, Louise, who is a teacher in Charlotte.
Passenant & Shearin Law
Outstanding Firm Pro Bono Service Award
Passenant & Shearin Law is a small family law firm dedicated to helping families resolve their conflicts in a fair and amicable manner in creative ways. Their attorneys handle a wide range of cases, including divorce, custodial issues, alimony and support, family violence, and more.
Strong advocates for children and families in the court system, partners Sheila Passenant and Kristen Shearin have both volunteered at Council for Children’s Rights in the roles of custody advocate and best interest attorney for a number of years; Sheila since 2008 and Kristen since 2011.
Presented by Legal Aid of North Carolina
Outstanding Individual Pro Bono Service Award
Outstanding Firm Service Award
Michelle Thompson is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University. She holds an M.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. Thompson began her legal career in Mecklenburg County Superior Court as legal officer for the Honorable Martha H. Curran. Recently, she joined the Wells Fargo Law Department as Senior Counsel on the Technology and Processing team with the Third Party Contracting Section.
As a pro bono attorney, Thompson has advised Legal Aid of North Carolina clients of their rights to protect certain property from the reach of judgment creditors, in addition to drafting motions for filing and negotiating settlements. Thompson lives in Mint Hill with her two fur babies, Logan and Kingsley.
Robinson Bradshaw has long recognized a civil and professional responsibility to address unmet legal needs in our community. They provide pro bono services to individuals and organizations that assist those in need, including matters referred by Legal Aid of North Carolina, Mecklenburg County Bar Domestic Violence program, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and Council for Children’s Rights. Their lawyers also provide assistance to nonprofit organizations in the community. Services include corporate organization, financing, real estate acquisitions and other business transactions.
Robinson Bradshaw performs pro bono criminal work as well, particularly in the areas of appointed criminal appeals and post-conviction capital representation. Seven Robinson Bradshaw attorneys were inducted in the N.C. Pro Bono Honor Society inaugural class. In 2016, their attorneys dedicated over 2,400 hours to pro bono work.
Presented by Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Outstanding Individual Pro Bono Service Award
Outstanding Firm Service Award
Demian Betz is Vice President and Senior Counsel on the Wells Fargo Law Department’s Litigation and Workout Team in Charlotte, as well as pro bono coordinator. Betz graduated from the University of Michigan in 1996 and DePaul University College of Law in 2002. As pro bono coordinator, Betz has worked with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, local law firms, and other legal services agencies to expand the Wells Fargo Pro Bono Program in Charlotte since early 2016. These partnerships have enabled the Charlotte Law Department to participate in a variety of programs and handle various pro bono matters, including cases regarding domestic violence, child custody disputes, veterans benefits claims, and naturalization applications. Betz handles child custody and special immigrant juvenile status matters, veteran benefits cases, as well as serving clients at naturalization clinics in Charlotte.
Bradley’s longstanding partnership with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is at the forefront of the firm’s commitment to providing pro bono legal services to Charlotte’s underserved communities. More than half of Bradley’s Charlotte attorneys have been involved with the Access to Justice Pro Bono program by providing estate-planning services, assistance in tax disputes, and leadership on its board. Their attorneys also offer services to other organizations, including the Actual Innocence Project, Latin American Coalition, Council for Children’s Rights, and Hague Convention Attorneys Network, among others.
Presented Jointly By
Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Outstanding Advocate Service Award
Diane Doherty has worked in the Charlotte legal community for over 20 years. She became involved with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy over three years ago when she joined K&L Gates as the Administrative Manager of the Charlotte office. She is in charge of the daily operations of the office and embraces the global footprint that is K&L Gates.
Giving back to the community in which she lives and works has always been a priority. Diane currently serves on the Housing Selection Committee for the Greater Matthews Habitat for Humanity and volunteers at Novant’s Presbyterian Hospital. With Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Diane has coordinated the Wills for Seniors and Veterans event each fall. She also assists with the Access to Justice Campaign and actively participates in the Pro Bono Roundtable discussions. This year, she was instrumental in garnering interest among K&L Gates attorneys and paralegals to participate in the Legal Advocacy Day of Service.