Pro Bono Spotlight: Eduardo V. Rodriguez

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the National Pro Bono Celebration (Oct. 19-25). 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 people in the legal community to get involved. Today, we feature Eduardo V. Rodriguez for his invaluable work in the Rio Grande Valley. 

For more than four years, Eduardo V. Rodriguez has served as a pro bono volunteer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s Hidalgo County Community Justice Program

According to Rodriguez, the drive to be a pro bono volunteer is a natural aspect of his profession. 

“It is my belief that, as attorneys, we are charged with a moral obligation to do good in the community and to assist the less fortunate,” he said. “Volunteering to represent the indigent population with legal matters is always a priority for me.”

During his time as a volunteer with TRLA, Rodriguez has played a key role in helping establish and staff a bankruptcy clinic in the area. Additionally, he has taken on numerous cases and served as pro bono counsel for impact litigation. The work has earned him recognitions from the State Bar of Texas and the Legal Services Corporation.

Finding a passion for pro bono work isn’t difficult for Rodriguez.

“Each case I take seems to motivate me to take on more cases,” he said. “These clients are so grateful that you are taking time out of your busy schedule to help them with a legal matter and are that much more grateful that you are doing it at no charge. I only wish I could do more.”

Rodriguez’s passion for helping low-income residents of the Rio Grande Valley is so strong that upon noticing the impact that recent budget cuts had on TRLA’s local offices, he offered to take on any local bankruptcy case that comes in and additionally explore pro bono opportunities with family law cases.

For new attorneys considering signing up to become pro bono volunteers, Rodriguez has some advice.

“The more pro bono work you engage in, the more you will understand the plight of the indigent population,” he said. “Providing legal services to those in need should be a part of your everyday practice, lest you forget why you became an attorney.”

Rodriguez received his bachelor’s degree and MBA from Pan American University and obtained his law degree from Texas Tech University in 1995. His passion for pro bono work was evident even during his law school days — to this day he holds the record for volunteering and mediating over 100 cases with the South Plans Association of Government.

He currently serves as a managing attorney for the Malaise Law Firm in the Rio Grande Valley.

 

Pro Bono Profile: Ernesto J. Dominguez

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.

Ernesto J. Dominguez admits that for a time, he was a lawyer who was too busy to do pro bono work. Then, he read a pro bono article in the Hidalgo County Bar Association newsletter and something clicked. “I used to say, ‘I don’t have time to do pro bono.’ Then I reached a point in my life — professionally and personally — where I felt that I just needed to give back to my profession,” he says. “I also felt (pro bono) was just a good way to assist someone who needs help.”

Dominguez, a partner in the McAllen firm of Orendain & Dominguez, says he learned about the Community Justice Program (CJP), a partnership between Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the Hidalgo and Cameron county bar associations, through an article in the Hidalgo County Bar Association newsletter. Modeled after the Community Justice Project in San Antonio, the TRLA program focuses on family law cases, helping those in need of divorces. Interested, Dominguez got involved and quickly became immersed in the world of legal aid. (He even served on TRLA’s board of directors from 1998 to 2002.) Dominguez says he was surprised by how easy it was to volunteer. “Volunteering for the Community Justice Program doesn’t take that much time,” he says, adding that TRLA screens cases and prepares divorce petitions before volunteers work on a case. “(TRLA) makes it as easy as possible for the volunteers.”

Last spring, the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Dominguez and his pro bono work. In May, the Hidalgo County Bar Association awarded Dominguez its John E. Cook Pro Bono Award. Dominguez says he’s surrounded by fellow lawyers deserving of the honor and is constantly amazed to see attorneys of all ages participate in the CJP. He hopes to see more attorneys step up to serve those in need. “I try to encourage others to participate in pro bono. In one way or another, you should just do something for somebody.”