The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.
Volunteerism is a family tradition, says Lan Nguyen. “Our parents serve, we serve, and our children will continue to serve since for each of us, a skill was endowed with an expressed obligation to serve.” For instance, shares Nguyen, her sons speak, read, and write five languages and can be found volunteering regularly as translators at several legal clinic workshops sponsored by the Houston Volunteers Lawyers Programs (HVLP).
Nguyen is committed to giving back to a community that gave so much to her family when they first arrived in the U.S. in 1975. “We immigrated to Fairhope, Alabama [from Vietnam] and people were generous with their attitudes and welcome,” says Nguyen, “that was enough to smooth our assimilation process and made that difficult period of our lives easier to handle.”
Many of Nguyen’s cases are handled with the HVLP, however she also handles cases for various local churches, temples and other non-profit groups.
Nguyen is also involved with the Vietnamese LegalLine which she founded in 2001 to help the public get simple legal advice and referrals to helpful resources. The program was established, says Nguyen, because although “Vietnamese immigrants have successfully assimilated into the general community, there are individuals who continue to struggle along the edges of the mainstream community because of the language or cultural barriers.”
Nguyen adds, “To this group of individuals the Vietnamese LegalLine was designed to assist, but to our pleasant delight we have reached more and more individuals even though they were not the ‘intended’ audience.”
Of her pro bono work, Nguyen says, “There are a lot of resources and help available when you are undertaking a pro bono case. Yes, it takes a little time, but the friendships that you make, the goodwill that you create, and the synergy that you contribute will last a lifetime. The returns are priceless.”