Houston Bar to celebrate Law Day with extended LegalLine hours, community service programs

The Houston Bar Association announced Wednesday it will offer extended hours for its free legal advice program, LegalLine, and sponsor public education programs in honor of Law Day, a national holiday recognizing the rule of law. 

The extended LegalLine program will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. The public can call the Houston Bar Association at 713-759-1133, where volunteer attorneys will answer simple legal questions, give brief legal advice, or refer the caller to the appropriate social service or legal aid agency for further assistance.

This year’s Law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. The association’s other Law Day-related programs are listed below.

  • From late April through early May, attorneys and judges will read the book Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote to elementary students in 100 classrooms throughout school districts and private schools in Harris County. For participating schools, contact Tara Shockley at 713-759-1133 or taras@hba.org.
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Care Campaign update: Attorneys can earn Care Commitment badge for pro bono work

The State Bar of Texas has launched the “Care Campaign” to help lawyers make pro bono an integral part of their legal practice. Lawyers who perform a certain amount of pro bono can now earn the Care Commitment badge, which will appear by their name on the popular Find a Lawyer page of the State Bar website.

The Campaign is intended to encourage lawyers to perform a base level of pro bono and inspire them to strive toward the State Bar’s aspirational goal of performing at least 50 hours of legal services to the poor each year.

Join your colleagues and make your Care Commitment today by visiting the My Pro Bono tab on your My Bar Page. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Deadline extended for attorney income, hourly rates survey

The deadline to take the 2013 Texas Attorney Survey has been extended to 5 p.m. Friday, April 18.

By participating, Texas attorneys can help ensure they have the most current economic information available. Also, participants will be entered in a drawing to win one of two new iPad Airs.

Reports generated from the survey provide statewide and regional information on current economic trends. The reports feature detailed breakdowns of income and hourly rates by firm size, years of experience, practice area, occupation, race/ethnicity, sex, and metropolitan area.

The survey also includes questions regarding pro bono. This data will be used to highlight how Texas attorneys are doing their part to help low-income residents.

The survey is anonymous, and the process is secure. Email addresses will be used for the iPad Air drawing and will then be deleted and not associated with attorneys’ responses.

 

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Language Access Fund enables pro bono representation of non-English speakers

The Language Access Fund, a new program of the State Bar of Texas, helps connect legal aid organizations across the state with much-needed translation and interpretation services for clients with limited English-language proficiency.

Interested legal aid organizations and pro bono attorneys who are working through such groups contact the Language Access Fund to obtain a code that grants them free usage of LanguageLine, a telephonic and document interpretation service. Alternatively, organizations can be reimbursed for using translation services of their choice as long as the fee is equal to or less than LanguageLine. Organizations that use on-site translation services (during a deposition, for example), as well as LanguageLine’s remote video translation services for rural areas of the state, also can request reimbursement from the Language Access Fund.

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State Bar conducting attorney income, hourly rates survey

Starting today through April 14, the State Bar of Texas is conducting the 2013 Texas Attorney Survey to provide attorneys with information on the economics of the practice of law.

By participating, Texas attorneys can help ensure they have the most current economic information available. Also, participants will be entered in a drawing to win one of two new iPad Airs.

Reports generated from the survey provide statewide and regional information on current economic trends. The reports feature detailed breakdowns of income and hourly rates by firm size, years of experience, practice area, occupation, race/ethnicity, sex, and metropolitan area. 

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Houston Bar Foundation honors attorneys for pro bono, volunteer service, legal writing

The Houston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association, recently announced its annual awards for pro bono service, volunteerism, and legal writing.

S. Jack Balagia Jr., the vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corp., was named the fifth recipient of the James B. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award.

The foundation also named the recipients of awards for outstanding contributions to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, which provides pro bono legal services to low-income residents; for volunteer service to the Dispute Resolution Center, providing free alternatives to formal litigation; and for legal writing in the HBA’s professional journal.

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Providing a voice for the homeless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In response to her father’s struggle with homelessness, Jessica Crute looked for a way to make a positive impact in the lives of those who are without a home in Harris County.

With a mission to promote education and advocacy through public art projects and collaborations within the community, Crute sought out legal assistance in obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for the nonprofit Voice of the Homeless. Thanks to Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR) pro bono volunteers, Voice of the Homeless is thriving.

Texas C-BAR provided an exceptional opportunity for CITGO In Action volunteer attorneys Holly Nini, Dean Hasseman and Orestes Parilli and staff Leah Center and Liz Aguilar to make an immediate, positive impact on the community. Texas C-BAR’s Pro Bono Legal Referral Program matched the CITGO legal team to help Crute get Voice of the Homeless off the ground.

Pictured, from left, are Robert Garay, Leah Center, Jessica Crute, Liz Aguilar, Dean Hasseman, Orestes Parilli, Jeff Bednar, and Holly Nini. 

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San Antonio Young Lawyers planning free legal clinic Feb. 27

Attorneys will be on hand Feb. 27 in San Antonio to answer legal questions at a free clinic presented by the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association and St. Mary’s University School of Law.

The clinic will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the law school’s Center for Legal and Social Justice, 2507 N.W. 36th St.

Attorneys will answer questions on a variety of issues, including divorce and custody, child support, bankruptcy, consumer matters, wills and estate planning, landlord-tenant problems, probate and guardianship, foreclosure, and Social Security.

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Update: Pro Bono Challenge brings out competitive spirit

In October, the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division issued a Pro Bono Challenge to the sections of the State Bar. The idea was to recognize the sections for their pro bono participation and add to the competitive spirit among them.

It appears to be working.

Since the challenge began, members have assigned approximately 9,505 pro bono hours to their respective sections! Below are the current leaders.

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Pro Bono Spotlight: Serving those who serve us

When Senior Airman Clark* received orders to make a permanent change of station to Europe, he and his wife found themselves in a predicament.

While stationed in Texas, Clark and his wife were caring for her teenage cousin. The child’s mother had become homeless—living on the streets—due to major substance abuse problems, and the father had passed away. Clark and his wife needed to obtain a formal custody order before bringing the child with them to their new base in Europe.

Clark and his wife were unable to afford an attorney, so his military legal assistance attorney (JAG) referred him to the ABA Military Pro Bono Project. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project located an attorney, Morris Albers II, who practices in La Grange, Texas, and generously offered pro bono assistance.

*Name changed for the client’s confidentiality.

 

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Pro bono award nominations sought

Each year, the State Bar's Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee seeks nominations for the Pro Bono Excellence Awards. The State Bar's Pro Bono Excellence Awards recognize dedicated members of the legal profession who are committed to providing legal services to the poor in Texas. Nominations for the 2014 awards are due on February 28, 2014. Get the full details

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Program to help attorneys handle pro bono tax cases

Attorneys can learn how to handle a tax controversy case, audit techniques and procedures, and other helpful information at a free CLE program Feb. 7 in Houston.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers, together with the Houston Bar Association Tax Law Section and the Texas Young Lawyers Association, will present “How to Handle a Pro Bono Tax Case” from 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 7 at South Texas College of Law.

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Free legal clinic for veterans set for Jan. 18 in Conroe

A free legal advice clinic for veterans will take place Saturday, Jan. 18 in Conroe, the Houston Bar Association announced Thursday.

The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic at 800 Riverwood Court, Suite 100. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will provide an opportunity for any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran to receive counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law—including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law—as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

 

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ABLA holds first pro bono clinic based on SBOT's Care Kit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
On Nov. 9, the Austin Black Lawyers Association hosted its first free legal clinic based on the State Bar of Texas’s Care Kit that encourages lawyers to engage in pro bono work.

Rudolph Metayer, president of ABLA, said he hoped the clinic would achieve one simple goal: to help the community. “It is my personal opinion that [lawyers] want to do what is right,” said Metayer. “The problem is that, I think just because we’re so busy, we don’t always have the ability to do so. The [Care Kit] played a vital role.”

Volunteer lawyers with ABLA and the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid nonprofit met with about 38 community members in just four hours to discuss matters concerning family law, bankruptcy, wills and estate, and landlord/tenant law. Although impossible to solve a legal matter during a short 30-minute consultation, clients left the ABLA clinic with more knowledge and direction for moving forward.

“I have called some attorneys, and they quoted me $2,000 to $5,000 to deal with a case like mine,” said Jacqueline Fisher of Round Rock, who sat down with Metayer at the clinic to discuss a child custody case. “So for him to give me a [phone] number for Legal Aid actually helps me out a lot. I know now what I need to do to take care of my case.”

Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 5: Elaine McAnelly

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the celebration of National Pro Bono Week (Oct. 20-26). Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring Elaine McAnelly for her invaluable work in the Houston legal community.

Elaine McAnelly recently retired after 23 years in the legal department of JPMorgan Chase, at the end of which she was vice president and assistant general counsel. It came as no surprise that when McAnelly retired from Chase this year, she would not be idle for long. After taking a Spanish immersion trip/class in Guanajuato, Mexico, as a longtime pro bono volunteer of Houston Volunteer Lawyers, she reached out to see how she could use her new Spanish skills to do some good for those in need of legal aid.

 

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Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 4: James A. Rodriguez

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the celebration of National Pro Bono Week (Oct. 20-26). Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring James A. Rodriguez for his invaluable work in the San Antonio legal community.

A 2008 graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, Rodriguez has been volunteering through the San Antonio Community Justice Program since 2009. The program is a collaborative effort by the San Antonio Bar Association and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to provide free neighborhood-based legal services to individuals who may not otherwise have access to the legal system. Upon starting his legal career, Rodriguez made the personal commitment to ensure that a large part of his professional career would be devoted to mentoring, professional development, and community service.

 

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SBOT Legal Access Division announces Pro Bono Challenge

The State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division is excited to issue a Pro Bono Challenge to the Sections of the State Bar.

When you log in to your My Bar Page to report your pro bono hours, you may now assign all of your hours to one Section, or you may assign hours to any combination of Sections by making multiple entries through the “add hours” tab.

Winners of the Pro Bono Challenge will be selected in two categories:
(1) the highest number of hours reported by a Section; and
(2) the highest percentage of Section members reporting pro bono hours.

The winners will be recognized at a special reception at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, in the Texas Bar Journal, and in other media. If you have any questions, please contact the Legal Access Division at 800-204-2222, ext. 1837.

 

Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 3: Sandy Fusco

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the celebration of National Pro Bono Week (Oct. 20-26). Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring Sandy Fusco for her invaluable work in the Dallas legal community.

Sandy Fusco is an associate in the commercial litigation section at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Earlier this year, she worked as the Weil Gotshal Lend-a-Lawyer full time at Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program for three months while her firm continued to pay her salary. She assisted with client interviews at several clinics, including South Dallas, West Dallas, the veterans clinic, and wills clinics, and worked on a variety of contested matters including probate, divorce, child custody, paternity, and consumer cases.

 

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Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 2: Vicki Carlson

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the celebration of National Pro Bono Week (Oct. 20-26). Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring Vicki Carlson for her invaluable work in the Waco-Killeen legal community.

Vicki Carlson of Killeen is an attorney at the Carlson Law Firm. In addition to running the firm’s growing bankruptcy department, she is a former Waco Bankruptcy Bar president and current member. Carlson was presented the 2013 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award by Nicolas Serna, managing attorney of the Belton branch office of Lone Star Legal Aid, at the annual Bell County Bar Association’s Law Day Banquet on May 9. The award plaque reads, “For outstanding contributions toward making legal services possible for low-income families and individuals.”

Upon receiving the award, Carlson said that out of all the clients she has served, the ones referred by Legal Aid’s pro bono program have been her most enjoyable.

 

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Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 1: Richard Horstman

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the celebration of National Pro Bono Week (Oct. 20-26). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring Richard Horstman for his invaluable work in the Houston legal community.

“I regret that I didn’t start doing pro bono earlier,” Horstman says.

In 2007, Horstman and Marathon Oil’s corporate legal department instituted a formal pro bono program for the company’s lawyers. As part of the effort, Catholic Charities made a presentation highlighting the legal needs of immigrant children in the United States. On Oct. 1, 2012, Horstman retired from Marathon Oil, where he was assistant general counsel for almost 35 years.

Horstman agreed to tackle a single case, and now performs nearly 230 pro bono hours a year. “I realized that I am one of the few who can do this because of my expertise as a lawyer,” he says. Horstman’s cases are complicated and time-consuming immigration. He has represented children as young as 3 spanning from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico who have been horribly abused and neglected. Horstman has helped Catholic Charities Cabrini Center to recruit pro bono counsel for clients who move out of the jurisdiction to New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Michigan. He frequently participates in Houston Volunteer Lawyers clinics.

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Nominations Open for 2013 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Awards

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters Business, is accepting nominations for the 2013 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Awards through Oct. 30, the company announced.

The annual awards honor individual lawyers, law firms, law students, law schools, and other institutions in the legal profession that exemplify excellence in practice through delivery of volunteer legal services to the poor, underrepresented, or exploited.

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Local bar associations, other groups recognized for improving access to legal services

Local bar associations, young lawyer associations, and State Bar of Texas sections were recognized for their commitment to pro bono service and access-to-justice issues during the State Bar’s annual Local Bar Leaders Conference.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht presented the Pro Bono Service and Deborah G. Hankinson awards on behalf of the Texas Access to Justice Commission on July 27 at the Westin Galleria in Houston.

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