Candace Friel finds her passion for pro bono work in projects where she gets to work with clients one-on-one, especially at home in the Triad. Friel is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, working as a healthcare and commercial litigator, and she is a member of the NCBA’s Health Law Section.
Since beginning her legal career at Nelson Mullins in 2007, Friel has built a robust pro bono practice, volunteering with driver’s license restoration clinics, Rebuild North Carolina, A Gift to Your Family advanced directive clinics, and more. Friel appreciates the opportunity to work with pro bono clients in person like she did with Rebuild North Carolina, where her client was seeking funds to help rebuild after Hurricanes Florence and Matthew.
In 2015, Friel worked with her firm’s pro bono resource administrator to organize and lead the first Wills for Habitat project in Winston-Salem. The program became an annual event for attorneys and staff at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s Winston-Salem office, and for many years, they held an in-person clinic to prepare wills for Habitat for Humanity homeowners to give them peace of mind and ensure their wishes would be followed. Although the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold, Friel looks forward to regrouping and continuing this service until all the local Habitat homeowners have been given the opportunity to have a will drafted.
Friel shared her reflections on the project.
“I particularly love that clinics like Wills for Habitat help people in my own community. Through the Wills for Habitat clinics, we interview our pro bono clients and learn about their families and their personal wishes. It is a very personal decision they are making, and I remember one woman in particular got very emotional about her decisions. She told me about her family and how she had lost her husband at a young age and had to raise her four children on her own. She never thought she would own her own home and felt that it represented more than just a place to live to her — it was a symbol of her struggles, her determination and her triumphs.
“When it came to creating her will and deciding how to divide her assets amongst her children, she shared her worries, and we were able to talk through various options and get to a point where she was comfortable that she was taking care of her family while also preserving relationships and ensuring that her home would be left in the best hands possible. She was so appreciative of the service — it had taken two years to get an appointment with our clinic due to the demand — which she said she would never have been able to afford and was nearly in tears because the weight of planning for her family’s future had been taken off her chest.”
Recently, Friel has also volunteered with Election Protection and their nationwide non-partisan hotline. When facing pandemic restrictions on in-person events, Friel has enjoyed the chance to help individuals across the country in a one-on-one capacity, even if not face-to-face. Friel shared that “the range of election-based issues has been a fun learning experience and [the project has been] a testament to our practices adapting to the times.”
Friel remarked that she is “lucky to be part of a firm with a robust pro bono commitment that is willing to invest its resources in a wide variety of projects.” She finds pro bono work to be a nice change of pace from the work she typically does, and she appreciates the opportunity to get out into the community and provide a service that brings peace of mind to those individuals.
Allison Standard Constance is the NCBA Pro Bono Committee Recognition Subcommittee Co-Chair.