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.
For family lawyers, “attorney and counselor” requires an emphasis on “counselor,” a role that Sharon Steckler relishes. In her pro bono work this often means giving clients the sense that they deserve better than an abusive relationship.
“Some of them are so beaten down by the abuse that they have no self esteem, so you try to raise them up,” said Steckler.
Steckler recently closed her private practice but is far from retired in any sense. She is an active volunteer with Fort Bend Lawyers Care (FBLC), where she serves as treasurer, answers calls on its LegalLine, and works at the Women’s Legal Forum to counsel battered women on their legal issues and rights.
Steckler also handles complex pro bono cases for FBLC. One of the most rewarding, she recalls, involved a young Nigerian woman whose abusive husband withheld support for her immigration to the United States as a way of controlling her. With Steckler’s help the woman was able to live on her own. The woman’s mother was so appreciative that she made Steckler a Nigerian tribal dress. “I truly treasure that,” said Steckler.
The return she receives from pro bono work is more often not material, but just as gratifying. “The best feeling, particularly with cases that involve spousal or child abuse, is having truly helped someone who without your efforts would be facing a very unfortunate situation,” she said.
Steckler’s outlet from the difficult issues of family law is serving as a judge in dog shows around the country and the world – she was recently invited to judge a show in Australia in 2011. She judges boxers and Doberman pinschers in junior showmanship and serves as treasurer of the American Boxer Club and legal counsel to the American Boxer Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to researching health issues affecting boxers. “It’s fun,” says Steckler. “A real change of pace.”