Bar associations from across Texas received recognition for their commitment to promoting access to justice at the Bar Leaders Conference July 15-16 in Houston.

The Bar Leaders Conference, put on by the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, and the Texas Access to Justice Commission, aims to help inspire effective leadership and address common concerns among bar associations.

The two-day training featured sessions on young lawyer affiliate projects, communication strategies, poverty law, and fundraising, among other topics.

State Bar of Texas President Frank Stevenson presented the Pro Bono Service and Deborah G. Hankinson awards on behalf of the Texas Access to Justice Commission to local bar associations at a luncheon July 16 at the Westin Galleria.

The Pro Bono Service Award recognizes local bar associations or sections that create lasting programs that encourage attorneys to do pro bono work, and the Deborah G. Hankinson Award honors initiatives that support, bring attention to, or raise money for legal aid.

The 2016 small, medium, and large section or bar association Pro Bono Service Award winners, which each received $1,000 checks to invest in their programs, were:

  • The State Bar of Texas Collaborative Law Section and Collaborative Divorce Texas for their Collaborative Law Pro Bono Project, which aims to make the collaborative law process available to low-income clients in need of dispute resolution.
  • The El Paso Bar Association for its Access to Justice Legal Fair and El Paso Lawyers for Patriots Legal Clinic, which helps provide one-on-one consultations to individuals with civil legal needs and offers presentations on veterans’ issues and pro bono legal consultations for veterans and active-duty military personnel.
  • The Austin Bar Association for its Self-Represented Litigant Project, created in light of a judicial mandate that all self-represented litigants in the uncontested docket go to the Travis County Law Library and Self-Help Center to receive assistance before appearing in court.

The Deborah G. Hankinson Award recipients were:

  • The Smith County Bar Association for efforts, including that more than 100 of its members have volunteered to assist pro bono clients.
  • The El Paso Bar Association for its Patriots Free Legal Clinic and ATJ Legal Fair, among other initiatives.
  • The Dallas Bar Association for its Campaign for Equal Access to Justice, which raised $1,025,309 in 2015-2016.
  • The Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association for conducting an inaugural challenge of performing a total of 1,000 pro bono hours through partnering with area organizations such as Baylor Law School and Mission Waco Legal Services.

Photo: Dallas Bar Association President-elect Rob Crain (center) is presented with the association’s award by State Bar President Frank Stevenson (right) and President-elect Tom Vick at the Bar Leaders Conference.