Free legal clinic is helpful for Chapel Hill residents
When she saw an ad for Monday Night Law at the Chapel Hill Public Library, Mengnan Dennis knew she could finally receive the legal advice she needed.
Dennis said she was painfully attacked by a dog in her neighborhood, but that the dog’s owner denied the attack.
Seeking legal advice on how to best handle the situation, Dennis attended Monday Night Law — a free legal clinic that is held at the Chapel Hill Public Library on the second Monday of every month. This Monday was the second time the event was held.
At the legal clinic, attorneys volunteer to meet with clients for 30 minutes to discuss issues like employment law, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant issues, family issues, consumer issues and small claims. People can come back every month until they no longer need help.
In order to receive help from an attorney, prospective clients must make an appointment in advance.
There is no charge for the service. Most volunteer attorneys are students from the UNC School of Law.
Jeremy Browner, founder of Chapel Hill’s Monday Night Law, said he got the idea from a New York City Bar Association program that has been running for many years.
Browner said he pursued the idea when Orange County District Court Judge Lunsford Long pleaded with the Orange County Bar Association for help in May.
Browner said Long complained too many people were coming to court without the information needed for their case and didn’t have the proper paperwork completed. He said the problem could be prevented if people had access to legal advice before they pursued a case.
While the lawyers at Monday Night Law cannot go to court with the people they advise, they can point people in the right direction.
“We help people who need help,” Browner said. “And we do this by giving them ways to best present their case.”
Browner said Monday Night Law partnered with the Chapel Hill Public Library so that it could use the same meeting room every month.
He said he expects to mostly see people who either don’t have the money to pay for an attorney or people whose cases have been previously denied by an attorney.
Browner said two people made appointments for the first session on Sept. 9, but neither came.
This Monday night, UNC law students helped with seven different cases.
Judson Williamson, who recently graduated from the UNC School of Law, helps facilitate the program.
“I think it’s an obvious need in the community, and the folks here are doing a great job to facilitate the district court process,” Williamson said. “All the lawyers here are simply volunteering their time to try to help individuals during their time in court.”
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