UTEP's Law School Preparation Institute receives $250K gift

Former Texas State Bar President Bob Black has gifted $250,000 to the University of Texas at El Paso Law School Preparation Institute.

“I made a 10-year commitment to LSPI because I believe in its mission and am proud of its accomplishments,” Black said. “At their graduation ceremony this summer, I got to meet the young people and their families who have sacrificed to go through the challenging program. They are our future and I am optimistic about our future because these young people are exceptional. We need programs like LSPI to help prepare these future leaders for the challenges ahead. No other university in the country has a program as successful at LSPI, and this brings added distinction to UTEP.”

As state bar president, Black presented a resolution honoring the LSPI in conjunction with a September 2011 meeting of the Bar’s Board of Directors in El Paso. The resolution recognized the LSPI’s efforts and accomplishments in providing educational and practical opportunities for UTEP students interested in pursuing a career in the legal profession. Black, who earned his bachelor’s in history from UTEP in 1977, was named a 2011 Distinguished Alumnus.

"Bob Black is one of the most beloved and best-regarded attorneys in Texas, and LSPI is lucky to count him as a friend,” said William Weaver, J.D., Ph.D., co-founder and director of the Law School Preparation Institute. “Bob has been a potent mentor to LSPI students and staff and is a vocal advocate of LSPI in his work with the State Bar and other organizations. His extraordinary gift to LSPI helps ensure that our students will continue to receive the best academic preparation and advice available concerning admission to law school."

The UTEP Law School Preparation Institute was established in 1998 to help students prepare for law school through an intensive summer academic program and reap the benefits of direct access to the legal community through instructors, clerkships and internships. The program strives to educate and guide students, as well as the community, about the responsibility and integrity required of law students and lawyers.

The program’s students have partnered with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program of El Paso to volunteer as legal advocates for children in the local foster care system. Students also reach out to local high school students by providing activities and programs to encourage them to pursue a career in the legal profession.

The UTEP Law School Preparation Institute has also partnered with the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) since 2009 to hold a pre-law symposium to emphasize to El Paso high school students the importance of diversity in the legal profession and to encourage them to pursue a legal education and help prepare them for that path.

About 60 percent of UTEP Law School Preparation Institute graduates go on to first-tier law schools, and more than 40 percent attend top 25 law schools.

“LSPI has received terrific support from lawyers in El Paso,” Black continued. “When I was president of the State Bar, I used the opportunity to make the case to all lawyers across the state who had benefitted from an education at UTEP to help LSPI. This is an ongoing effort and I hope to continue advocating on behalf of statewide support from alumni for LSPI. It deserves it.”

More information about the LSPI can be found at www.academics.utep.edu/law.

Media Contact:
Veronique Masterson
Public Information Officer

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Kelley F. Whalen

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the Legal Hotline for Texans, a program of the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC), truly appreciates the attorneys within Texas who accept reduced fee cases throughout the year. TLSC would like to spotlight the efforts of Texas attorney Kelley F. Whalen.

Kelley has been a member of our reduced fee panel since 1990, and has since assisted with more than 300 cases. He has proved a huge resource to our clients, offering services not only in the Austin area, but also in the Gonzales area, which is often a difficult region for folks to find a reduced fee or pro bono attorney. In addition to offering services in different geographic regions, he graciously offers our reduced fee clients a wide variety of subject matter for which he will accept cases. This has been extremely helpful over the years, with clients often needing assistance in more than one area of the law.

Recently, TLSC had a client who was in the hospital unable to travel and was seeking assistance with getting a will in order. Kelley and his office offered to meet with the client, and ultimately were able to assist him with his will. The client was thrilled, as they were able to obtain the documents needed to leave their small personal estate to charity. This is just one of the many happy clients who have benefited from this program.

Texas Legal Services Center is thankful to have attorneys such as Kelley, who truly go above and beyond to assist those in need.

If you are interested in becoming a panel attorney or would like more information, please contact Moriah Topolski at mtopolski@tlsc.org or 512-637-6752.

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Lisa Leffingwell

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

It has been our pleasure for the past 14 years to call Lisa Leffingwell one of our own. She is a joy to work with, always taking time out of her busy schedule to provide free legal counsel to our clients.

As a small non-profit law firm serving the terminally Ill and people living with HIV in Dallas and 15 surrounding counties, we rely heavily on Lisa who handles Estate Planning cases for our clients. Her kind and caring demeanor and attention to detail put a client’s mind at ease; they know at signing they can rest assured that their final wishes are in order.

We at Legal Hospice of Texas appreciate the opportunity to showcase Lisa in celebration of this year’s Pro Bono Week. Thanks to the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division for the opportunity to spotlight our fantastic volunteer Lisa Leffingwell! 

“Thanks to Lynne Candler, (another LHT volunteer attorney) I began volunteering at Legal Hospice of Texas so many years ago that I can't remember!” Said Leffingwell. “ I particularly enjoy working with these clients because they are so appreciative and grateful for both Legal Hospice and for my services.  It is a simple way to make a big difference - not only in providing the assistance, but giving these clients peace of mind."

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Charles M. Barnard

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

Despite having an active private practice, Charles M. Barnard has been a pro bono volunteer with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas - Wichita Falls office for more than 12 years. A past recipient of LANWT’s Equal Justice Volunteer Program Attorney of the Year award, Barnard volunteers because he believes in access to justice. “I am proud of my profession,” he says. “I count it as a privilege to provide legal services to those who need legal representation but cannot afford it.”

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Adam G. Schachter

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

Adam G. Schachter is a board certified bankruptcy attorney in Houston Texas. The Schachter Law Firm, P.C. was founded by Adam in September 2004 for the purpose of serving businesses and individuals who were struggling with debt.

Schachter’s philosophy is that people and debts are separate, and that people should be treated with courtesy and respect. Bad debt does not equal bad people. The majority of the firm’s clients have had some major financial crisis such as divorce, illness or death in the family, job loss or, in the case of small businesses, loss of a major client.

Schachter also believes that major financial crises do not equal the end of someone’s life or a complete lack of hope for the future. With that in mind, Schachter and his staff do an extraordinary job of removing the stigma, fear, and pain that people in financial straits experience.

Volunteering is important to Adam as evidenced by his twice-yearly classes on bankruptcy and debt collection as part of the courses offered by Katy and Spring Branch independent school districts. Upcoming classes will take place at Mayde Creek High School (Bankruptcy Oct. 16 and Debt on Oct. 23). Schachter also volunteers at Lone Star Legal Aid where he teaches other volunteer lawyers how to process Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases.  Dana Bias of Lone Star Legal Aid, who recruited Schachter to help other pro bono lawyers, reports great satisfaction with the CLE-approved training classes.

"I regularly speak to the public about debt issues and bankruptcy. I provide seminars on the collection laws, the myths and facts related to bankruptcy, and how bankruptcy works generally.” Schachter said. “It's an opportunity to learn and to find out that some lawyers out there are kind and approachable. About 80 percent to 90 percent of the people who come to my classes are struggling financially. The other 10 percent to 20 percent are often non-bankruptcy lawyers or their staff hoping to learn more about a complicated and specialized area of law. If you are struggling financially, or just interested in learning more, coming to one of my talks is a no-risk, no-obligation way to learn more about the rights someone has when their finances are taking a beating."

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Beth Handschuh

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

The Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas – McKinney Office would like to spotlight pro bono attorney Beth Handschuh during the National Pro Bono Celebration. Beth has been volunteering with LANWT since the early 2000’s, taking a variety of cases ranging from divorce to consumer fraud. She states that pro bono is some of the most rewarding work she does and she believes that it should be a part of any attorneys’ practice.

Beth’s most memorable pro bono experience involves navigating the world of foreclosures, the home owner’s modification program, and how big banks and mortgage companies have little internal communication. Beth zealously advocated for a 79 year-old widowed client in Rockwall County against the client's mortgage company. After breaking their promise to the client to defer her property taxes, Beth’s client was in real danger of losing her home. Beth spent more than 100 hours advocating for her client, and ultimately saved her home.

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Tammy Wincott

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

For those of us who manage pro bono legal programs, we have heard of those rare volunteers who come to every clinic; take whatever cases you have (regardless of how difficult or complicated); will take more than one case at each clinic; and thought to ourselves, “How do we find one those volunteers?” The San Antonio Bar Association’s Community Justice Program was lucky enough to have one of those volunteers find us. Tammy Wincott is a model volunteer attorney who all pro bono legal programs dream of having on their team. Tammy has been volunteering with the program since 2009 and has rarely missed an opportunity to participate in one of the many monthly pro bono legal clinics the Community Justice Program facilitates each year, yet still finds time to manage her own successful legal practice. Tammy was honored this year as the 2012 CJP Pro Bono Attorney of the Year for taking 22 pro bono cases throughout the year — an award she also won last year for taking 19 pro bono cases. 

Tammy is able to assist the low-income residents in our community because of her vast legal knowledge and experience in many different areas of law — including bankruptcy, family law and immigration. She is particularly compassionate with our indigent veterans who attend the program’s monthly Veterans Legal Clinic. A former member of the U.S. Air Force, Tammy understands the struggles that many veterans and their families face upon leaving active duty and often takes two or three cases during a veterans clinic. 

Tammy also leads by example and is an inspiration to other attorneys by emphasizing the importance of giving back and making a commitment to service. She is one of those rare jewels in the world of pro bono legal services — she is the attorney who never says no, keeps coming back to each clinic, and is always willing to go above and beyond the volunteer requirements. We are grateful and fortunate to consider Tammy a friend of the CJP and look forward to seeing her each month at one of our family law, wills, or veteran clinics. We thank her for her continued support of the program and dedication to helping low-income residents in our community access legal services.

Spotlight on pro bono volunteer Alberto Guerrero

It's National Pro Bono Week! In celebration, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the State Bar – Legal Services Support Division would like to spotlight a few star pro bono volunteers from across the state.

ProBAR Children's Project would like to recognize Alberto Guerrero as a pro bono volunteer. Guerrero has, without hesitation, volunteered to handle a number of cases for our office, has advised us on cases he hasn't directly handled — helped to connect us with other experts on the relevant issues — and has trained and mentored other pro bono attorneys interested in taking cases through our office. 

Guerrero takes special interest and care in developing a rapport with the children he works with — whether it's chatting with them about soccer or showing them web pages of their hometown on his iPad — he's always able to bring smiles to their faces. Most important, he's a reliable and caring figure in the lives of children for whom adults have more frequently been a source of tragic abuse and neglect.

It's an honor to work with him and to watch him make a difference in the lives of these children. Regarding pro bono work, Guerrero has said, "It's not often even as a lawyer that you have the opportunity to have a life-altering impact on a young person. Helping a child have the opportunity to live in this country, free from an environment of abuse or neglect, and to obtain education, is hugely rewarding."

ProBAR Children's Project is a project of the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education

State Bar of Texas deputy executive director Kelley Jones King earns national honor

Kelley Jones King, deputy executive director of the State Bar of Texas, has received the E.A. “Wally” Richter Leadership Award from the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) Communications Section. The award was presented at the NABE Communications annual conference on October 12 in Denver.

The Richter Award is the section’s highest honor and is presented for outstanding achievement in the field of communications, extraordinary service to NABE colleagues, and distinguished leadership within the NABE Communications Section. Read the official press release.


Houston Veterans Court on 60 Minutes

CBS 60 Minutes will be airing a piece on the Harris County Veterans Court on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. CDT (or after the football game). The Veterans Court highlights one of the many innovations that Harris County is taking in reducing crime, making the county safer, and reducing jail population.

Random Profile - Celeste Blackburn, The Woodlands

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Areas of practice: State and Federal Criminal Law.

Education: I graduated from Texas A&M University in May of 2000 with a degree in Animal Science. I then attended South Texas College of Law graduating in December of 2002.

Most important career lesson: You never know who will be elected as a judge, so be professional to everyone!

Continue Reading...

Texas Access to Justice Foundation names 2012 Texas Equal Justice Works Fellows

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), in partnership with Equal Justice Works, has announced its 2012 class of Fellows who have developed new and innovative legal projects that will impact lives and serve communities in desperate need of legal assistance. The two-year fellowship projects began in September.

Since 2002, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, as part of its commitment to ensuring access to justice for the poor, has sponsored these innovative fellowship projects. This year, the Foundation is fortunate to co-sponsor a Fellow with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP and to have received a grant from the John M. O’Quinn Foundation to help fund the work of another fellow.

Supported by partners like the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Equal Justice Works is the largest postgraduate legal fellowship program in the nation. Each year, hundreds of talented law school graduates apply to Equal Justice Works having designed their “dream job” with a nonprofit organization that has agreed to host the applicant, if awarded a fellowship. Sponsors like TAJF then review project proposals and select candidates who meet general criteria or otherwise complement their philanthropic and pro bono interests.

The Texas Equal Justice Works Fellow Class of 2012 includes:

Sarah Loeffler
Host Organization: Montgomery County Women’s Center, Conroe
Issue area: Domestic Violence

Christine Nishimura
Host Organization: Disability Rights Texas, Austin
Issue area: Education, Children/Youth

Meghan Kempf
Host Organization: Family Violence Prevention Services, San Antonio
Issue area: Domestic Violence

Keegan Warren-Clem
Host Organization: Texas Legal Services Center, Austin
Issue area:  Health Care/Medical-Legal Collaborative

Continuing Fellows from the 2011 Fellowship class sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation are: Adriana Rodriquez, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Laredo, and Michelle Smith, Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin.

Contact: Erin Moore or Lia Pette, 512-472-9599
emoore@echristianpr.com or lpette@echristianpr.com
Elizabeth Christian & Associates Public Relations

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texans each year.

Equal Justice Works is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For additional information about Equal Justice Works, please visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.

Minority director sought

Nominations are now being accepted for minority director for the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. Self nominations will not be accepted. Four appointed positions were created on the Board in order to increase minority participation as well as to provide representation from varying professional, geographic, and social environments. Two positions will become vacant in 2013. Read the full details.

TYLA to present voting rights documentary and voter registration drive

In an ongoing quest to educate young people across Texas about their fundamental right to vote and the history of the suffrage movements that solidified that right, the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) is presenting "Vote America! Honor the Fight, Exercise Your Right" Video Presentation and Voter Registration Drive:

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 1:19 – 2:44 p.m.
Akins High School
Academy of Business, Leadership and Legal Enterprises, Library
10701 South First St., Austin

Deputy Voter Registrars will be on site to facilitate voter registration. Read the full press release.