Pro bono spotlight: Service achieves more than court order for client

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  • | 12:00 p.m. June 27, 2016
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When Matt McLauchlin said he’d like to take a pro bono case, he knew it would likely not be in his primary areas of practice.

At Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, he a business and health-care law litigator.

Still, he ventured into the world of pro bono representation and chose a matter that held little correlation to his everyday practice.

The guardian advocacy case McLauchlin accepted involved a developmentally disabled young adult whose primary parent had been her grandmother.

McLauchlin describes the matter here.

What were the basic facts of your case?

A grandmother had been granted custody of her granddaughter 15 years ago.

The granddaughter was a severely developmentally disabled child who was about to turn 18.

In the eyes of the law, she would become an adult and no longer be subjected to the “custody” of the grandmother.

At that point, the grandmother would not be able to make the necessary decisions for her granddaughter or receive governmental assistance benefits she needed to continue to take care of her granddaughter.

What were you able to accomplish for your client?

Through a petition with the probate court, we were able to assist the grandmother to become the child’s “guardian advocate” so she could legally continue to take full care of her granddaughter, make medical, educational and other decisions for her granddaughter, and still receive the governmental assistance she needed to financially provide for her care.

Why was the outcome important to your client?

Without this assistance, the client would not have legally been able to continue making decisions for the care and protection of her granddaughter, who was unable to care for herself.

Why was the experience important to you? That is, what did you gain from the experience?

The experience of assisting the client in this case reinforced for me that there are so many in our community that need but cannot afford legal assistance for even the most basic types of cases.

I also learned about an area of law in which I had never practiced and I think it is good to get out of your comfort zone.

What is the name of your firm? In what areas do you practice?

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. Business litigation/law and health-care litigation.

What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono involvement?

Take on a pro bono case and you will see the significant impact your services can have in the lives of people in our community.

Attorneys are taught to be problem solvers.

Whether a pro bono case is in an attorney’s primary areas of practice or not, the tools for gaining the knowledge needed to assist a person in need are readily available.

Those tools come in the form of educational materials, expert resource/mentor attorneys and Westlaw research.

The legal services organizations are there to support and facilitate pro bono efforts.

McLaughlin clearly provided more than a court order for this family. He helped ensure this vulnerable young person will continue to get the care and family support she needs.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Circuit should contact Para at [email protected].