The Texas Access to Justice Commission kicked off Pro Bono Week on Monday with a reception honoring law firms and individual attorneys that support access to justice efforts in Texas.
Gov. Rick Perry and the Supreme Court of Texas both issued proclamations designating this week as Pro Bono Week in Texas. The commission’s annual reception, held at the law firm of Vinson & Elkins in Austin, started off the week by celebrating the supporters of the commission’s Access to Justice Campaign, as well as those who support access to justice throughout the year by providing pro bono legal services.
“Every person deserves access to the courts,” said Jenny Smith, the Texas Young Lawyers Association liaison to the commission. “If we as lawyers don’t provide that, no one will.”
Peggy Montgomery, former general counsel to ExxonMobil and sustaining member of the Champion of Justice Society, added, “Attorneys need to commit with their time, but it is just as important that they commit with their money.”
Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman presented awards to the Pro Bono College 20-year members and Champion of Justice law firms, noting that while some 5.6 million Texans qualify for legal aid, existing programs are only able to meet the needs of one in five low-income Texans.
20-year Pro Bono College honorees
David Lee Spiller of Spiller & Spiller in Jacksboro and Terry Lynn Velligan of Houston were honored for 20-year membership in the Pro Bono College. The college recognizes attorneys who have provided more than 75 hours of pro bono service every year, which far exceeds the State Bar of Texas’s aspirational pro bono goal of 50 hours.
Champion of Justice law firm awards
This year’s Access to Justice Campaign has raised more than $1,146,000 from more than 8,270 attorneys across the state. Awards were presented to 16 Champions of Justice law firms.
Firms recognized for raising the highest dollar amount were Vinson & Elkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, Andrews Kurth, Baker Botts, Kelly Hart & Hallman, and Jackson Walker, with honorable mentions for Locke Lord, Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Firms receiving awards for achieving 100 percent participation were Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta; Beirne, Maynard & Parsons; Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza; Naman Howell Smith & Lee; Nathan Sommers Jacobs; and Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason, with Vinson & Elkins receiving an honorable mention.