Pro Bono Profile: Robert Black

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

In addition to a busy solo practice, Robert Black finds time to donate his pro bono services regularly to Volunteer Legal Services (VLS) in Austin. For the past two decades, Mr. Black has led attendance at the twice weekly evening clinics hosted by VLS, and he has also ranked near the highest among volunteers for acceptance of pro bono cases for representation.

“Everyone has an obligation to serve their community,” Mr. Black said. “Only attorneys have the education and the skills to address the legal needs of their community. When I take cases with Volunteer Legal Services, I have the opportunity to help people in need in a way that few others can.”

Mr. Black has used those legal skills to meet the legal needs of many low-income families in Austin. When VLS had a large number of clients in need of Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, Mr. Black decided to become a bankruptcy practitioner solely to serve those clients. Through his outstanding pro bono work with VLS, he has brought relief to many of the people in his community who are going through very difficult financial times. “This is community service that only attorneys can provide, and we should be mindful of that obligation,” he said. 

Pro Bono Profile: Lyla Malolepszy

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Public service has always been a major part of Lyla Malolepszy’s career. Even before she obtained her paralegal degree in 2003, she started volunteering with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT), and every year since then she has continued to contribute enough pro bono service to be a member of the Texas Pro Bono College. Her exemplary service earned Ms. Malolepszy the 2010 Paralegal Division Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award.

Ms. Malolepszy has worked hard to encourage pro bono service from attorneys and paralegals in her community. In addition to assisting on pro bono cases with LANWT, she recruits and trains other volunteers for its pro bono program. While working full time as a paralegal for Donald Johnston in Sherman, she also serves on the Professional Development Committee and Pro Bono Ad Hoc Committee of the Paralegal Division, and she is the Executive Coordinator of the Grayson County Bar Association. As a result of her efforts, many more attorneys and paralegals in Grayson County have volunteered their services after learning how they can help meet the legal needs of low-income families in their community.

“Lyla is the epitome of pro bono service,” wrote Debbie Oaks Guerra. “She inspires everyone around her with her dedication and caring. Her pro bono volunteerism is making a real difference in her community and should serve as an example to others in the profession of what can be achieved when we use our special skills as paralegals for those less fortunate than ourselves.” 

Pro Bono Profile: Michelle Reed

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

At a pro bono opportunities panel in 2006, Michelle Reed was deeply moved by the stories of ProBAR, an organization that provides pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas. That panel inspired her to volunteer with ProBAR, and since then she has served as the primary attorney on four pro bono cases and has won asylum grants for all of her clients. 

“When I met Meredith Linsky, Director of ProBAR, at the Bar Leaders Conference, she impressed me greatly with what everlasting benefit we can provide to asylum seekers. Since then, each person I have helped has helped me appreciate the safety and freedom of the United States, and each has caused me to renew my promise to always help people who are often at the lowest time in their life. In the end, it is really community lawyering that makes a difference—one case at a time,” Ms Reed said.

Counsel at Akin Gump in Dallas, Ms. Reed contributes her pro bono services because she believes that attorneys are obligated to use their skills and license to serve those less fortunate. Meredith Linsky says that Ms. Reed’s passion is evident to everyone she works with. “She is a highly skilled lawyer who puts in the time and effort to prepare her cases with care and precision. Besides her skill as a lawyer, what makes Ms. Reed special is the genuine kindness and compassion she shows her clients. She is visibly moved by their stories and humbled by their gratitude,” Ms. Linsky said.

Ms. Reed has also supported and inspired the pro bono service of others. At ProBAR, she has served as an attorney mentor to associates on several asylum cases. And although her practice and responsibilities as a mother of three small children keep her very busy, she makes sure to take time for pro bono as an example to her children. “When I started practicing seven years ago, I was so busy with my billable work that I didn’t know how to keep up,” Ms. Reed said. “I decided right then that I would simply always commit to carrying at least one active pro bono matter at all times – a promise I kept even through two maternity leaves. That way, I would always know that my hard work was paying off.”

Pro Bono Profile: Starlett Carter

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Starlett Carter is a transactional attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Dallas, where she represents large institutional clients in mergers and acquisitions. She is also a pro bono attorney with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, where she represents very different clients – low-income families and individuals – in a wide range of legal issues. In pro bono cases and at DVAP legal clinics, she has assisted clients with divorces, adoptions, asylums, wills, contract disputes, and other claims.

Ms. Carter has always been passionate about giving back to those less fortunate and utilizing her law degree to those in her community in legal need. “There is no better feeling than when your pro bono client is on the verge of tears and is hugging you and thanking you for the positive outcome you achieved for him or her,” she says. Two moments in her pro bono service stand out to her: Obtaining asylum for a client that had endured years of abuse in his native country based on his sexual orientation; and successfully completing an adoption for grandparents who desperately needed to get their grandchildren legally adopted for medical reasons.

This year, Ms. Carter has also served as a 2010 Lend-a-Lawyer in the DVAP office. The Lend-a-Lawyer program allows attorneys to practice at DVAP full-time while receiving salary and benefits from their firm. Ms. Carter said her experience as a Lend-a-Lawyer was exceptional. “DVAP is a wonderful place to work and help out those who could not otherwise afford legal assistance. As an attorney in the DVAP office, I got to personally witness how much the DVAP employees can change their clients’ lives for the better. I am truly fortunate that Weil and DVAP afforded me such a wonderful opportunity.”

Pro Bono Profile: Naomi J. Bang

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

At the Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance in Houston, Naomi Bang provides pro bono legal services to some of the most vulnerable clients – unaccompanied immigrant children. These unaccompanied children are victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and without an attorney like Ms. Bang, these children would have to navigate the complicated immigration system alone.

“I believe that every lawyer has a duty to give back to the community with our training and tools,” Ms. Bang says. “For me, I choose to defend the ‘least of these’ – unaccompanied minors, young victims of trafficking, domestic abuse, and gang violence. These children have suffered more than anyone of us will in a lifetime.”

In addition to her pro bono service, Ms. Bang is an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law and a senior attorney at the FosterQuan law firm. At the Immigration Clinic, she supervises law students taking juvenile immigrant cases in family and immigration court.  “These cases are not only rewarding, they are excellent opportunities to use and improve practical litigation skills and become great advocates for the people in our community who need us,” Ms. Bang says. “I am very proud of FosterQuan and South Texas College of Law for their dedication to and support of this worthy cause.”

The enormous impact of Ms. Bang’s pro bono service is perhaps best summarized by one of her child clients who said, “She gave me hope to live a better life in this country. She believed in me.”