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.

 

What evolved was more than anyone expected. McAnelly dove into her new role representing Houston’s poorest in matters of family law with the zeal that lawyers’ professional cannons ask them all to strive for. In just a few short months, McAnelly not only learned new areas of law and mentored other volunteer attorneys, she also personally handled family law cases and made a point to do so for Spanish-speaking clients.

McAnelly helped hundreds of Houstonians, who probably don’t even know that they had the privilege of being represented by a lawyer as decorated as McAnelly. Houston Volunteer Lawyers, too, is privileged to have had her aboard. She is now volunteering at Houston Volunteer Lawyers’ clinics every other Wednesday and will continue representing individual clients on a pro bono basis as a retired, but tireless, lawyer.

When asked why she does pro bono work, McAnelly said, “We honor the legal profession when we do the humble work of representing low-income individuals through pro bono programs. We don’t receive fame or notoriety; however, the rewards are plentiful.”

Show You Care: If you are retired, an inactive attorney, or licensed in another state, and you are inspired by McAnelly’s pro bono service, please contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division to participate in the Emeritus Program. And now pro bono attorneys do not have to be bilingual to assist limited English proficient or deaf clients. The State Bar’s Language Access Fund makes interpreter and translator services available to you for pro bono cases.

Contact the Legal Access Division at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or probono@texasbar.com.

 

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.

 

Dedicated and passionate about giving back to his community, Rodriguez rarely misses the opportunity to volunteer at the CJP’s monthly family, wills, and veterans clinics. Since he began volunteering through the CJP, Rodriguez has taken more than 65 pro bono cases and helped many low-income clients and veterans access legal services that previously seemed out of reach. He often takes more than one case during the clinics and will take cases that are more complex and complicated.

In 2011, Rodriguez was honored as the Community Justice Program’s 2011 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. This year, he received the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association 2012-2013 Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. When not helping clients, Rodriguez serves on the San Antonio Bar Association’s District Courts and Publications committees. He was also the first presiding municipal judge of the city of Von Ormy and has served in that position since May 2010, taking great pride in helping to build that court from the ground up as the newest municipal court in Bexar County.

Show You Care: If you would like to serve as a mentor or need mentoring for your pro bono case, please contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division for more information at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or probono@texasbar.com.

 

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.

 

Currently, she is representing a father who is trying to obtain custody of his son and successfully obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the mother from placing the child up for adoption against her client’s wishes. In addition, the father was able to visit his newborn son in the hospital thanks to Fusco’s legal assistance.

“Working as Weil’s Lend-a-Lawyer to DVAP was absolutely fantastic,” Fusco said. “I really appreciate the courtroom experience and direct client contact I have gotten. But the best part is making a difference in my clients’ lives.”

Show You Care: If your firm would like to learn how it can contribute to the pro bono community, please contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or probono@texasbar.com.

 

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.

 

Lone Star Legal Aid is one of three legal services providers, federally funded through the Legal Services Corporation, that serve every county in Texas. Lone Star Legal Aid serves 72 Texas counties with a service area of nearly 1.5 million income-eligible residents. Legal Services Corporation, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and multiple grants generously fund Lone Star Legal Aid.

Show You Care: If you would like to find out why Carlson feels pro bono clients are her most enjoyable, please contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or probono@texasbar.com to connect with a pro bono provider or program.

 

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.

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.

Many of his clients have said he changed their lives and gave them hope.

Marathon Oil is a great example of how law firms and in-house corporate legal departments can implement formal pro bono efforts that strongly encourage their lawyers to get involved. If you are inspired by Marathon Oil’s pro bono program, the Corporate Counsel Section of the State Bar of Texas has numerous resources to get your corporation plugged into the pro bono community. Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) is a nationwide resource for legal departments and in-house attorneys interested in doing legal pro bono work. CPBO provides technical assistance, online services, training, surveys, research materials, onsite pro bono clinics, and confidential consultation services to in-house pro bono volunteers—all at no charge. Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR) provides free business law services across Texas to community-based nonprofits developing affordable housing and other much-needed services in low-income communities.

Show You Care: If you are retired, an inactive attorney, or licensed in another state, and you are inspired by Horstman’s pro bono service, please contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division to participate in the Emeritus Program. And now pro bono attorneys do not have to be bilingual to assist limited English proficient or deaf clients. The State Bar’s Language Access Fund makes interpreter and translator services available to you for pro bono cases.

Contact the Legal Access Division at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or probono@texasbar.com.