For the past two years, I have managed social media for a nonprofit organization in my home state of North Carolina. More specifically, I work for the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, which aims to connect attorneys to various pro bono volunteer opportunities throughout NC. This job has been incredibly rewarding and has exposed me to and made me more knowledgeable about the immense justice gap in North Carolina. I interviewed my supervisor Sylvia Novinsky, the Director of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center (PBRC). In this interview, she discusses her own work with the PBRC, the importance of volunteering, and some of the best advice she has received.
Q: What is your title and role at the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center?
A: My title is Director of the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center. I am also the staff member of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: I am fortunate in that I do a lot of different things, which keeps me busy and happy. I also get to work with amazing staff members. In general, my role is to direct the resource center and figure out what our goals are for the year. I also find ways both outside throughout the community and inside the resource center to find lawyers to do pro bono work. Also, over the last few years, we have been fortunate enough to get a few grants to do work that responds to urgent unmet legal needs. That has been really satisfying because we are building those projects from the ground up.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: I love working with people. I love talking with people about their interest in pro bono. That really excites me, but I really love meeting one-on-one with a person and finding out why they are interested in doing a project and what project really excites them. I think that building those relationships is hugely satisfying.
Q: What has been your proudest moment working for the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center?
A: I have a few proud moments. My parents are both immigrants. They came to the United States from Argentina with no real money or language skills, and I do this for them. I do this because I watched them not have access to legal services, and I knew that when I went to law school that I wanted to advocate for those people that don’t have that access. I am proud to be a former legal services attorney. I am also proud that I figured out that I have this skill set where I can figure out how we are going to get to where we need to get to. I am proud to be figuring out how private attorneys can help address access to justice issues.
Q: Why do you think pro bono volunteering is important?
A: I think pro bono volunteering is critical. We have an access to justice gap, not only in this nation, but specifically in North Carolina. While we wish that we had a legal services attorney for each person seeking legal services, we don’t right now. But, we do have lawyers who have specific skills, time, and passion to help those people with their legal services issues. I think lawyers play a unique role in the access to justice system, and, in particular, private attorneys. I also don’t think it’s possible to hear what these unmet legal needs are and not be moved in some way and recognize that sometimes with just an hour of your time you can help someone.
Q: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
A: There are a few pieces of good advice that I have received. One is “show up.” I think just by showing up you are in the game. You are showing that you care. You are showing that you are present and ready. Half the battle sometimes for me is just getting people to show up and listen. I have never regretted showing up to something because I always feel like I have a lot to learn. The second piece of advice is to be gracious. Try to understand what other people are going through and give them the benefit of the doubt. By giving them some grace, that might stop you from making an assumption about them. Let’s be kind to each other.