The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.
Claire Brown is from Houston and is a 2L at Texas A&M University School of Law. She is on the Texas A&M Law Review, vice president of the student organization 12th Law Man, and a student ambassador. Brown plans on practicing public interest law.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My pro bono work has been with two different organizations: the Tarrant County Bar Association, or TCBA, and the Community Revitalization Project, or CRP. I began working at TCBA in October of my 1L year and continue to do so. Most of the work at TCBA consists of doing intake for their Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans clinics that are held once a month. I started my work with CRP the summer after my 1L year as a volunteer intern. I did a variety of projects related to community development, low-income communities, and nonprofit organizations. I also learned about and participated in some of community outreach efforts. I currently help with community education.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Prior to law school, I worked with refugees, the homeless, and veterans and saw how unfair the world can be to people who do not deserve to be treated badly. I want to help those people because they have so much good to contribute to society if only society would let them. Pro bono work changes people’s lives and I like being a part of that. I know it might sound cliché, but ultimately I want to make a difference in the world—at its core that is what pro bono does, one little step at a time.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I can honestly say that most of the practical things I know about the legal profession and being a lawyer I learned from doing pro bono. I came into law school knowing next to nothing about the practice of law or its different areas, but through pro bono, I have been exposed to most of the major types of law, which has helped me to gain a better understanding of what I want to do. I have also met many great lawyers through pro bono who have taught me how to interact better with people on a personal level and also that lawyers are not the scary, intimidating people I thought they were—they are real people too.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from doing pro bono. Law school is busy, but there’s always something you can stop wasting time on to make room for pro bono. It gives you skills early on that your classmates do not have, and it is a great way to network.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I recently had the opportunity to assist with a wills clinic held at a local domestic violence center. Obviously no one wants to think about needing a will, especially young people with families, but the women who came to the clinic were strong enough to realize that it was something they needed to have just in case. Being able to help them with the process and see the relief they felt when they knew their families would be taken care of no matter what happens really made me feel like I was doing something right.