Lone Star Legal Aid offers free veterans law CLE

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans logoLone Star Legal Aid’s Longview branch office is conducting a day-long CLE for Texas attorneys who would like to assist veterans with their legal issues. The CLE takes place Friday, Aug. 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Institute for Healthy Living, 611 E. Hawkins Pkwy., in Longview. “These are critically tough economic times for everyone and we are working to identify and serve low-income veterans who need important legal help but cannot afford it,” said Dorman Brumbelow, Pro Bono Litigation Coordinator in the Longview office. “Our partnerships with private attorneys are vital to ensuring that more low-income Texans have access to justice.”

The event is free to attorneys who agree to accept at least one civil case on a pro bono basis from Lone Star Legal Aid for a low-income veteran. The program includes an overview of veterans benefits, federal and state protections for active service members, and other issues such as IRS considerations. Attorneys can earn up to 7.5 hours of MCLE credit. For more information or to register, contact Tammy Self or Sheila Timberlake in Lone Star Legal Aid’s Longview office at (903) 758-9123.

Lawyers rockin' for pro bono!

Law Jam 3 is a benefit concert for pro bono legal aid. The concernt is a joint program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas that benefits the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP).

This event will be held on August 20, 2011 at the Granada Theater in Dallas. Doors will open at 5:30pm with the event beginning at 6pm. Seven bands will be performing: Big Wheel, The Usuals, Black Dirt Tango, The Catdaddies, Blue Collar Crime, The Wrecking Crew, and Texas Rock Association. All of the bands are comprised of Dallas-area lawyers and judges Click here for ticket information.

The mission of DVAP is to increase and enhance pro bono legal services to the poor in Dallas through the recruitment, training, and support of volunteer attorneys.

Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat - Sept. 7-9, 2011

The Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat is designed for staff whose primary roles include coordinating pro bono efforts, recruiting private attorneys to provide direct legal services to the poor and/or organizing training events so attorneys can deliver civil legal services to poor Texans.

This two-day event provides valuable training on increasing the quantity and quality of legal services available to the poor through pro bono efforts. The retreat will be held Sept. 7th - 9th, 2011 at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

This year's retreat room block is at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Austin University. The room block discount closes August 19th. The deadline to register for the retreat is August 24th. Download the registration form and agenda (both are in pdf format).

Nominations are open for the 2011 Pro Bono Excellence Awards

Nominations are open for the 2011 Pro Bono Excellence Awards. Each year, the State Bar's Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee gives Pro Bono Excellence Awards, which recognize dedicated members of our legal profession who are committed to providing legal services to the poor in Texas. 

The awards include the W. Frank Newton Award, J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award, Frank J. Scurlock Award, Pro Bono Award, and Pro Bono Coordinator Award. Nominations for the 2011 awards are due on February 25, 2011.

To download the nomination forms, please visit www.texasbar.com/probonoawards.

Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat - Sept. 22 -24, 2010

This two-day event provides valuable training on increasing the quantity and quality of legal services available to the poor through pro bono efforts.

This year's retreat will provide excellent training and networking opportunities for anyone responsible for coordinating pro bono efforts for a legal services program or a law firm. Discussion will be focused on how to effectively deliver legal services to low-income Texans.

The deadline to register is Sept. 6, 2010. Get more details including a registration form and agenda.

TexasBarCLE Webcast Offers Veterans Benefits Law Training

As part of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans initiative, TexasBarCLE is offering a live webcast on the Basics of Veterans Benefits Law. The webcast, scheduled for Tuesday, August 24, from 9 a.m. to noon, is designed to give attorneys who have an interest in representing veteran claimants seeking U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits a primer in this growing area of practice. Attorneys who want to represent a veteran on a VA benefits claim must be accredited by the VA.

For attorneys who are already approved by the VA to represent veteran claimants, this webcast also provides the three hours of CLE necessary to maintain their accreditation. The course will focus on VA disability benefits, the rules regarding attorney representation of a veteran with benefits claims, basic eligibility for VA benefits, claims procedures, etc.

Attorneys who agree to take one VA benefits case pro bono within one year can take the course at no charge. Visit TexasBarCLE.com to learn more or to register.

State Bar seeks outstanding pro bono attorneys

You've probably come across plenty of attorneys in your legal career who are great at what they do. But what about those that stand out from the crowd a bit? You know, the ones who handle a full load, and still have the time, energy, and resources to help those in need. 

And we're sure you've wanted to say "good job" without sounding trite. What better way to honor those who help low-income Texans who cannot afford access to the legal system than to nominate them for a 2010 Pro Bono Excellence Award? Now's your chance to tell us about that attorney who goes above and beyond in the name of justice.

The State Bar Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters is seeking nominations for the following awards: Pro Bono Coordinator Award, the Frank J. Scurlock Award, the Pro Bono Award, the J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award, and the W. Frank Newton Award.

Nominations must be submitted on award nomination forms. Each attorney nominee must be a member in good standing with the State Bar of Texas. Award nomination forms and supporting materials should be sent to the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, c/o Texas Lawyers Care, State Bar of Texas, 1414 Colorado, 4th Fl., Austin 78701-1627 or to tlcmail@texasbar.com.

All nominations must be received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 11. A postmark of March 11 will be insufficient. For more information about these awards or for an award nomination form, contact Texas Lawyers Care at tlcmail@texasbar.com or (800)204-2222, ext. 1855 or (512)427-1855.

The 2010 Pro Bono Excellence Awards will be presented at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Fort Worth in June. Award announcements will be made in May, and honorees will be profiled in the July issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

 

Pro Bono Profile: Jim Hunter

 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.

Jim Hunter knows how fortunate he is. As a volunteer with the Cameron County Community Justice Program, he takes on family law cases. A current client is a terminally ill woman whose husband abandoned her and their three children. “When I look at the problems she has, I know that mine pale in comparison,” says Hunter, a partner in Royston Rayzor in the Rio Grande Valley. “As attorneys, we have been blessed with law degrees and great careers — we have a duty to help people.”

Hunter, who practices maritime, commercial and injury litigation, is serving as the 2009–10 president of the Cameron County Bar Association. He says he is using his presidency as a way to get more attorneys in Cameron and Willacy counties on board to do pro bono work. “My mantra this year is to get lawyers to understand how fortunate we are and that we have an obligation not only to our clients and to the public, but to our profession, to improve the perception of lawyers.”

Hunter plugs pro bono wherever he goes and has been successful in recruiting many attorneys to participate in the Community Justice Program. The beauty in the program, he says, lies in the resources offered to volunteer attorneys not familiar with family law. “The nice things about the program is that we have mentors,” he says. “They make it as easy as possible. We have had lawyers who have never taken a family law case and they end up taking more because they have such a wonderful experience in the program.”

Pro Bono Profile: Ken Fuller of Dallas

Ken FullerThe 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.

Ken Fuller has been called a “godsend” to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, and it’s easy to see why. He has devoted at least two days of pro bono services per week through DVAP for the past seven years and has won numerous awards for his efforts, including the State Bar’s Frank J. Scurlock Award and DVAP’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year.

The honors are more than justified because Fuller’s contributions run deep. A long-time name partner in Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson, P.C., Fuller has drawn on his years of family law expertise to become a trusted and invaluable mentor to DVAP’s volunteer and staff attorneys. In 2002, he stepped in as a mentor when the program’s mentor staff attorney resigned, then continued to volunteer in various capacities after a full-time mentoring attorney was hired. DVAP staff members have found that attorneys seem more eager to volunteer when they know Fuller will be on hand to help.

Fuller, who has been board certified in family law since 1975, also works with DVAP’s pro se program, which provides classes for low-income persons to learn how to represent themselves in simple family law matters. He has contributed to the written instructions and has helped update the program’s pleadings. In addition, he assists in training volunteer attorneys through various classes offered through DVAP and does not hesitate to refer pro bono cases, especially more difficult ones, to his colleagues. 

 

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.” 

Pro Bono Profile - Lan Nguyen of Houston

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.

Volunteerism is a family tradition, says Lan Nguyen. “Our parents serve, we serve, and our children will continue to serve since for each of us, a skill was endowed with an expressed obligation to serve.” For instance, shares Nguyen, her sons speak, read, and write five languages and can be found volunteering regularly as translators at several legal clinic workshops sponsored by the Houston Volunteers Lawyers Programs (HVLP).

Nguyen is committed to giving back to a community that gave so much to her family when they first arrived in the U.S. in 1975. “We immigrated to Fairhope, Alabama [from Vietnam] and people were generous with their attitudes and welcome,” says Nguyen, “that was enough to smooth our assimilation process and made that difficult period of our lives easier to handle.”

Many of Nguyen’s cases are handled with the HVLP, however she also handles cases for various local churches, temples and other non-profit groups.

Nguyen is also involved with the Vietnamese LegalLine which she founded in 2001 to help the public get simple legal advice and referrals to helpful resources. The program was established, says Nguyen, because although “Vietnamese immigrants have successfully assimilated into the general community, there are individuals who continue to struggle along the edges of the mainstream community because of the language or cultural barriers.”

Nguyen adds, “To this group of individuals the Vietnamese LegalLine was designed to assist, but to our pleasant delight we have reached more and more individuals even though they were not the ‘intended’ audience.”

Of her pro bono work, Nguyen says, “There are a lot of resources and help available when you are undertaking a pro bono case. Yes, it takes a little time, but the friendships that you make, the goodwill that you create, and the synergy that you contribute will last a lifetime. The returns are priceless.”

Pro Bono Profile: Jeffrey Stocks of Houston

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.

Jeffrey Stocks was reading an article about the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) in the October 2006 Texas Bar Journal and saw a list of upcoming training sessions. One was in Houston at the South Texas College of Law that December. He decided to attend. The next year, he took his first case for ProBAR, an asylum case involving a boy from Guatemala named Darwin (pictured with Stocks). Stocks won the case, earning the boy the opportunity to start anew in the United States.

Since then, Stocks has represented eight unaccompanied children in their asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile status cases (he’s working on cases seven and eight now). In doing so, he’s had to learn about the intricacies of immigration law and working with clients who have come from situations of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

“These are all unaccompanied minors,” said Stocks, who is a graduate of South Texas College of Law and CEO and owner of Gen-Tech Construction in Houston. “Many do not have family here or any family at all. It takes a lot of gumption for these kids to leave their country at age 15 and come here.”

To handle ProBAR cases, he commutes to the Rio Grande Valley, where children who have made their way from Central and South America are detained at the border. “There is such a need for volunteer attorneys down there. It’s a more remote location, so they don’t have as many resources,” Stocks said.

The cases can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but the benefits more than make up for the long hours or commute time. “It’s very rewarding. I stay in touch with every one of [the children] and encourage them to pursue an education. Three from more recent cases were placed in long-term foster care here in Houston, so I get to see them more often.

“The older I get, the more this kind of work is so important to me. This is very compelling to me. This makes a difference. I’m happy to do it.”

Pro Bono Profile: Mandy Childs

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, the 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.

When Mandy Childs was interviewing for an associate position at Jones Day, she wanted to get one thing straight. “I was looking for law firms that honored pro bono work,” Childs says. “One of the first questions I asked was, ‘What kind of pro bono initiatives do you have?’ ” Childs found her dream firm in Jones Day, which she says supports and encourages pro bono work. Jones Day, she says, treats all pro bono cases just as paid cases.

In fact, last year Childs was the firm’s first attorney to participate in the Lend-A-Lawyer program with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, an experience she calls amazing. For three months, the firm “loaned” her to DVAP full-time while she still received her Jones Day salary and benefits. Her time in the program brought her the most rewarding case of her career: helping a mother reunite with her kidnapped son. She was so moved by the experience that she was compelled to help found her firm’s Associate Pro Bono Committee, which pairs associates with partners, to help DVAP staff emergency pro bono cases. “(Jones Day) was immediately on board to take these on,” she says.

Childs, who received her J.D. from Southern Methodist University, co-chairs the 2009–10 Ask-A-Lawyer Committee of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. Childs also volunteers as a crisis counselor at the Suicide and Crisis Center of Dallas. “I kind of feel I’m at my best when I’m helping someone who is in crisis,” Child says. “I feel like that is where I shine the most.”