Texas lawyers, legal organization to receive ABA Difference Makers Awards in San Antonio

Three Texas attorneys and a San Antonio legal services organization will receive national awards for breaking down barriers through community service, pro bono work, and service to the legal profession, the American Bar Association announced today

The list of 2014 Difference Makers Awards recipients includes State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum, former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, Houston immigration lawyer Harry Gee Jr., and RAICES, a San Antonio-based legal services and education organization for refugees and immigrants.


The awards will be presented Friday, Oct. 24 in San Antonio during the 9th Annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference, presented by the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

Tatum, the owner of San Antonio-based LM Tatum, PLLC, will receive the 2014 Making a Difference Through Community Service Award, which honors an attorney—living or deceased—who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the local community.

Tatum has served in leadership positions in local, state, and national bar associations and has been active in her community as an alumnus of Leadership San Antonio, a member of local chambers of commerce and the Greater San Antonio YMCA Board of Directors, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, among other activities.

During her term as State Bar president in 2013-2014, Tatum guided the launch of two major initiatives: I was the First. Vote for Me!, an award-winning interactive civics education project for Texas elementary school students, and the Care Campaign, an effort to empower attorneys to serve the millions of low-income Texans who can’t afford the legal help they need.

Click the links below for more information about the recipients.


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!


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.

Briana Stone, a staff attorney in the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division, noted that a significant proportion of low-income people who qualify for legal aid also have limited English proficiency. “Unfortunately due to language barriers, these clients end up sitting on waiting lists or not being served because legal aid and pro bono organizations cannot find pro bono attorneys who speak their language or are willing to take on the expense of working with an LEP client. Many of these clients are victims of violence, crime, trafficking, and other abuses, so it is important to address their legal needs as quickly as possible.”

To date, more than 28 organizations have used the Language Access Fund to assist clients speaking over 29 different languages—including American Sign Language, Spanish, Bengali, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi, Vietnamese, and many more. As part of the Care Campaign initiative, the Language Access Fund helps further the State Bar’s goal to foster a culture of pro bono service in Texas.

Catholic Charities’ St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigration Legal Assistance noted how the Language Access Fund has helped a French-speaking client. This woman—whose political activism in Cameroon led to the fatal beating of one of her children and to the burning down of her family’s home—has sought asylum in the United States while her children remain in Cameroon. Due to errors and backlog at the immigration court, she likely will wait until at least 2018 or 2019 for her case to be heard and thus is unable to work legally and remains separated from her kids. The Language Access Fund helped Cabrini connect with non-French-speaking pro bono attorneys who are working with translators to obtain authorization for the woman to work and to advance her hearing.

Legal aid organizations interested in connecting with translation and interpretation services through the Language Access Fund can contact Briana Stone at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1857 or email her at briana.stone@texasbar.com.

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.

The clinic is an extension of the State Bar of Texas Care Campaign, which is designed to empower attorneys to serve the millions of low-income Texans who need legal help. The campaign includes a Care Kit—a box containing all of the resources needed for a local bar association or legal organization to hold a legal advice clinic.

Walk-ins are welcome. To schedule an appointment, call 210-570-5172 or email CareClinicSanAntonio@gmail.com.

Attorneys interested in volunteering at the clinic should contact Barrett Shipp, the SAYLA project coordinator, at barrettshipp@gmail.com or 210-366-0900.


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.”

Proclamations help kick off National Pro Bono Celebration in Texas

Proclamations from Gov. Rick Perry and the Supreme Court of Texas helped the State Bar of Texas kick off its weeklong observance of the National Pro Bono Celebration on Monday.

Perry and the state Supreme Court signed proclamations encouraging Texans to observe the celebration, which is designed to focus attention on the need for pro bono legal services and commend attorneys who perform the work. The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service started the celebration in 2009, after the recession intensified the need for pro bono legal services.

“In 2012, Texas lawyers volunteered more than 2.4 million hours of pro bono work and donated an additional $13.26 million to providing legal assistance for low-income Texans,” Perry said in the proclamation. “Each year, a week in October is dedicated to recognizing those professionals who have stepped up to the plate and to encourage other lawyers to volunteer a portion of their time. The Lone Star State is well known for its hospitality, and these dedicated individuals are doing a great service to their communities and their state.”

During the celebration, the State Bar of Texas is promoting its new Care Campaign, a program designed to further empower Texas attorneys to provide pro bono services. The campaign offers practical training tools, interpreters for clients with limited English-language abilities, and access to malpractice insurance through a specialized network. The program includes a “Care Kit” with all of the resources local bar associations and legal organizations need to easily hold a legal advice clinic.

The national celebration is under way through Saturday and includes events in Houston, Lubbock, San Antonio, Beaumont, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Texarkana, Tyler, and other Texas cities. A full list of Texas events is available here

Pictured: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, left, and State Bar of Texas President Lisa M. Tatum stand with proclamations from the Supreme Court of Texas and Gov. Rick Perry encouraging Texans to observe the National Pro Bono Celebration this week.