Pro Bono Spotlight: Taylor Lamb

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 Taylor Lamb for her invaluable work in the Houston legal community.

The Houston Bar Association, the Houston Bar Foundation, and the HBA’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers established the Veterans Legal Initiative in 2008 to serve the legal needs of Houston’s large veteran population. In 2011, a Texas Access to Justice Foundation grant allowed the initiative to partner with other bar associations to establish Saturday legal clinics in a 17-county area where low-income veterans had little access to pro bono legal services.

Kathy* came into one of those legal clinics, in Lake Jackson, needing a divorce. Originally married in January, Kathy was the victim of an assault by her husband, Brad*, at the beginning of May. The Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department arrested Brad, who was on felony probation at the time he assaulted his wife and was held on a no-bond status.

Freed from an immediate physical threat by her abusive husband, Kathy was able to move out and purse legal remedies to dissolve their marriage and ensure her future safety. Through the Veterans Legal Initiative, she was matched with volunteer attorney Taylor Lamb, who obtained IOLTA certification for Kathy’s case and had her husband served in the Brazoria County jail.

Licensed in 2010, Lamb is an associate who handles corporate and transactional matters at Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C., in Houston. Since the firm started its pro bono program two years ago, Lamb has handled pro bono cases for Houston Volunteer Lawyers, primarily through the Veterans Legal Initiative.

“There are so many in need,” she said. “They are so grateful when you take the time to listen to them at the clinics. If there is something you can do, you want to do it.”

When Lamb met Kathy, she knew she wanted to help her. “She was an injured veteran who was very young,” Taylor said. “She was younger than me, and she had already had this whole life experience. It was hard to see someone that young who had already gone through so much.”

In addition to handling the divorce, Lamb had to obtain protective orders for Kathy and represent her in hearings in Brazoria County. While it was “a little intimidating,” Lamb said the court experience and interaction with the judge were very positive. She credits her firm’s family law group and the support she received from Houston Volunteer Lawyers with making it easier to handle the case.

Brad pleaded guilty to assault of a family member and was sentenced to 120 days in the county jail. Six days after his release, Lamb finalized the divorce for Kathy, a relatively quick turnaround made possible by a dedicated volunteer and what Lamb describes as “the perfect client.”

“She was so patient and brave in working through the traumatic facts of the case,” Lamb said. She was touched that at the final hearing, Kathy brought a notebook she kept throughout the legal proceedings containing all of the emails Lamb had written to her. “She was so visibly relieved to have this behind her.”

Lamb’s firm started its pro bono program in 2012, and it enjoys great support from firm leadership, she said. The firm sponsors legal advice clinics and is partnering with Houston Volunteer Lawyers to provide new quarterly clinics at the Houston Area Women’s Center.

“It’s so nice to be able to furnish this service,” Lamb said.

*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

 

Foundation celebrates pro bono week, honors legal aid advocates

Texas access to justice leaders marked the start of the weeklong National Pro Bono Celebration on Monday with tributes and awards to attorneys, legislators, and organizations that make legal aid a central part of their work.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation presented the awards during a luncheon with the Texas Supreme Court in Austin. The event coincides with national pro bono week (Oct. 19-25), an American Bar Association initiative to highlight the need to protect and expand access to justice through volunteer civil legal services.

Attorneys provide more than 2 million hours of free legal or indirect services to low-income Texans each year, the equivalent of about $500 million, according to the University of North Texas Survey Research Center. But for every 11,000 Texans who qualify for legal aid, there is only one legal aid lawyer, according to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The luncheon honored those who are working to address that need.

Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, who returned to private practice in 2013, received an inaugural award named in his honor.

Jefferson, a vocal advocate for pro bono, designated funds remaining in his officeholder account for access to justice, said Justice Eva Guzman, the court’s access to justice liaison. In presenting the award to Jefferson, Guzman announced the creation of the Legacy Challenge: Reserves to Preserve Justice campaign, which will encourage other public officials to designate funds left in their officeholder accounts to benefit pro bono efforts.

Other award winners appear below.

  • Former Sen. Robert Duncan and Reps. Senfronia Thompson and Sarah Davis received Legislative Hero Awards for their work in the Texas Legislature to advance access to justice.
  • The State Bar of Texas received the Harold F. Kleinman Award for its work in helping to create the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and its continued support of access to justice efforts. State Bar President Trey Apffel, President-elect Allan DuBois, and Executive Director Michelle Hunter accepted the award.
  • The State Bar’s Construction Law Section received the Access to Justice Award for its continued financial support. Since 2007, the section has donated $245,000 to the foundation to support civil legal services.
  • Independent Bank, PlainsCapital Bank, and Preston State Bank received the Prime Partners in Justice Award for being prime partner banks who provide extraordinary interest rates through the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.

The luncheon also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the state’s leading funder of legal aid. The Supreme Court created the foundation in 1984 to administer the then-new IOLTA program. Since that time, the foundation has awarded more than $410 million in grants to organizations throughout the state that provide civil legal aid to the poor.

In a keynote speech, Austin attorney William O. Whitehurst, who served as State Bar president in 1986-1987, praised the court and the foundation for creating a national model for supporting access to justice: “It has led the way for us all and has done it hands-on.”

Pictured: Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, right, accepts the inaugural Wallace B. Jefferson Award from Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Justice Eva Guzman on Monday during a Texas Access to Justice Foundation luncheon in Austin.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Rocío García

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 individuals in the legal community to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. Today, we are featuring Rocío García for her invaluable work in the Dallas legal community.

Rocío García, an attorney at Perkins Coie, is a pro bono champion and longtime volunteer with Catholic Charities of Dallas, Inc. (CCD).

The Immigration and Legal Services Division of CCD was established in 1975 in response to the growing number of immigrants moving to North Texas. The program provides a broad range of immigration counseling and representation to immigrants and their families.

As a member of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, García offers constant support of CCD’s programs at the bar association meetings, which has been crucial with the recent and continuing arrival of unaccompanied minors.

While García regularly spends countless hours volunteering with CCD on Saturdays, she has been invaluable over the past few months as the humanitarian crisis drove over 52,000 children to flee from extreme, traumatic violence in their home countries.

On Saturday afternoons, CCD offers a legal orientation and screening to unaccompanied children who have been detained and have upcoming court dates. When the number of children in need of screenings became more than CCD staff could handle, García put out a call for volunteers.

She consistently brings volunteer attorneys in to the CCD office on Saturday afternoons, conducts a small training, and guides the new volunteers through screenings. García’s ability to take the bull by the horns, as well as her passion for CCD’s clients, is a blessing to the entire staff.

 

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.