Pro Bono Spotlight: Texas C-BAR, Texas CASA, and Patrick Maher

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. Today, we feature Texas C-BAR, Patrick Maher, and Texas CASA for their invaluable work.

Texas C-BAR is the only project of its kind in Texas. Texas C-BAR provides free legal resources and pro bono transactional legal services to organizations working to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods and for high-risk populations. One such organization is Texas CASA.

Texas C-BAR pro bono volunteers and Texas CASA have a longstanding working relationship. CASA trains volunteers throughout Texas to become Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children as they navigate the court system.

Texas C-BAR volunteers and staff provide legal advice and assistance as well as training to the central CASA organization. Every year, Texas C-BAR trains executive directors and leadership staff of local CASA organizations at a conference convened by Texas CASA. New and veteran executive directors report “aha” moments of understanding the operational risks hidden in managing employees and volunteers and feeling relieved at learning how to manage that risk.

Volunteer attorney Patrick Maher of Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller LLP in Fort Worth recently handled a Texas CASA matter. Vicki Spriggs, CEO of Texas CASA reported: “To say the level of service was outstanding is an understatement! I contacted Texas C-BAR, who referred my case to Mr. Maher; within the week of my request I’d spoken to Mr. Maher twice. His constant guidance, accessibility, knowledge, and calm made a tremendous difference in the outcome of the matter.

“Mr. Maher was with me as a partner through the entire matter, and he was never too busy to return a call or tell me when to expect a return call. He helped me through the process step by step. My appreciation to Texas C-BAR and attorney Maher cannot be overstated. Thank you for the high level of service you provided.”

Strong community support serves as the foundation of the local CASAs. Texas C-BAR volunteers have worked with dozens of local CASA organizations, helping with everything from the creation of bylaws to helping review contracts. Texas C-BAR looks forward to continuing to partner with CASA to serve Texas’s at-risk children.

 

Pro Bono Spotlight: Providing a voice for the homeless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In response to her father’s struggle with homelessness, Jessica Crute looked for a way to make a positive impact in the lives of those who are without a home in Harris County.

With a mission to promote education and advocacy through public art projects and collaborations within the community, Crute sought out legal assistance in obtaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for the nonprofit Voice of the Homeless. Thanks to Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR) pro bono volunteers, Voice of the Homeless is thriving.

Texas C-BAR provided an exceptional opportunity for CITGO In Action volunteer attorneys Holly Nini, Dean Hasseman and Orestes Parilli and staff Leah Center and Liz Aguilar to make an immediate, positive impact on the community. Texas C-BAR’s Pro Bono Legal Referral Program matched the CITGO legal team to help Crute get Voice of the Homeless off the ground.

Pictured, from left, are Robert Garay, Leah Center, Jessica Crute, Liz Aguilar, Dean Hasseman, Orestes Parilli, Jeff Bednar, and Holly Nini. 

The program helps eligible Texas nonprofits working to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods by matching volunteer opportunities with experienced transactional attorneys that will handle a wide array of legal issues including corporate, real estate, tax, and employment law needs on a pro bono basis. Texas C-BAR has an extensive online Legal Resource Library that is maintained to provide access to the most commonly used forms, materials, and other legal documents related to nonprofits and community development law.

Texas C-BAR also works to provide legal education workshops and training to lawyers and those individuals starting or running a nonprofit so they can educate themselves on legal compliance and nonprofit governance matters.

The group’s mission “will be much more successful because of the incredible infrastructure that the CITGO legal staff helped us create for our organization,” Crute said. To Texas C-BAR, she added: “Thank you, again, for linking us to such an incredible team!”

The nonprofit’s first major project spoke loudly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show You Care: If you are interested in volunteering with Texas C-BAR, please complete an Attorney Volunteer Questionnaire. Attorneys participating in Texas C-BAR’s pro bono panel have the opportunity to work on individual, discrete transactional legal matters for a nonprofit. Texas C-BAR sends requests for referrals to attorneys on its pro bono panel via e-mail, which provides information about the nonprofit client, the legal matter being referred, and conflicts information. Texas C-BAR sends these requests to several attorneys and law firms at same time matching areas of expertise and geography. Attorneys who are interested in accepting a specific matter then contact Texas C-BAR staff, who facilitate the referral.

For more information on pro bono opportunities across Texas, contact the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1855, or at probono@texasbar.com.

 

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.