This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.
For more than 18 years, Michael Stukenberg has served on the pro bono panel of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) in Corpus Christi. In that time, he has never turned down a request from TRLA to assist a client. He has served many in his community, including non-English speaking clients and a local homeless coalition seeking to obtain articles of incorporation.
It is this continued connection to his community, including individuals and families without much money, that has motivated Mr. Stukenberg in his pro bono service. “I have always felt that it was part of our mission and duty as lawyers to offer our services to the broader community, and I have found the volunteer lawyer program at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid to be a wonderful way to do that,” he says. “I spend most of my professional time helping people who have much pass their wealth on to their heirs in ways that minimize taxes and complications. Our professional rates have gotten so high that we have effectively priced ourselves out of the market for those with less means. Thus I don’t get much of an opportunity to work with the less fortunate except in a volunteer capacity.”
In addition to his individual pro bono service, Mr. Stukenberg has coordinated his law firm’s participation in TRLA’s pro bono program. In this partnership between law firm and legal aid, he sees value for everyone involved. “The clients are always very appreciative and you feel so wonderful that you have been able to help make their life a little easier in some small way. I also find that I frequently learn something new that I can apply in my practice – so it’s a win-win. It’s a great program and I’m proud and grateful to be a participant.”