October 24, 2019
On Friday, October 18, Legal Aid of WV (LAWV) kicked off Pro Bono Week celebrations by hosting a pro bono wills clinic in Elkins, WV. The Randolph County Senior Center hosted LAWV staff and volunteer attorneys from Curnutte Law, based in Elkins, and Akin Gump, based in Washington, D.C., for 20 appointments to help Elkins seniors create a last will and testament at no cost.
Six young attorneys from Akin Gump volunteered at the clinics, each taking 2-5 appointments with clients throughout the afternoon. Scott Curnutte, of Curnutte Law, an experienced and well-respected local attorney was brought in by LAWV Pro Bono Coordinator Diane Young to act as a reviewer for all the drafted wills.
“I think it’s important for people to have a deliberate estate plan, and events like this get people in the door because they aren’t worried about costs,” Curnutte said. “I deeply value my relationship with Diane and Legal Aid of WV. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be of service.”
Akin Gump’s relationship with LAWV formed as part of the Rural Summer Legal Corps program, which places aspiring law students with programs that provide rural legal services. As the opportunities for pro bono support have surfaced, Akin Gump has been eager to step into the roles.
“Akin Gump makes a conscious effort to focus on pro bono service,” said Steve Schulman, Partner at Akin Gump. “Legal Aid of WV has been a wonderful partner in our efforts to ensure we are giving back, through opportunities with the summer fellows and through wills clinics—this is our second successful set of wills appointments in West Virginia.”
This was the first time Randolph County Senior Center (RCSC) partnered with LAWV for a wills clinic. They set up the appointments on a first-come-first-serve basis after placing an ad in their newsletter. According to Laura Ward, Executive Director, the responses came in quickly; RCSC even created a waiting list once the initial appointments were filled. At the end of the clinic, 18 wills total were drafted and printed for clients to take with them.
“I’m so glad we were able to do this because I think we demonstrated there is a need, so it’s been wonderful,” Ward said. “One of my seniors came to me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘This has been such a relief for me.’”
The Akin Gump staff who traveled to Elkins were attorneys Thor Peterson, Joe DiPiero, Will Pelak, Evan Goodman, Virginia Hiner, Doug Badini, and Miranda Dore, along with paralegal Parker Anderson. Their enthusiasm throughout the day was contagious; many clients came in with anxiety but left smiling, with numerous compliments about their attorneys.
“It’s encouraging these young attorneys have a heart for pro bono,” said Diane Young of LAWV. “They were a pleasure to work with, and we’ve had fun together throughout the process.” After the completed clinics, Diane planned to show the attorneys a bit of Elkins, including dinner at local restaurant CJ Maggies.
Pictured below: Attorneys Thor Petersen, Will Pelak, Evan Goodman, Virginia Hiner, Doug Badini, Miranda Dore, and Paralegal Parker Anderson. Not pictured: Joe DiPiero and Scott Curnutte