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.
Julie K. Sherman is a paralegal at Cantey Hanger in Fort Worth. She is a past winner of the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s Liberty Bell Award, the Tarrant County Young Lawyers Association’s Liberty Bell Award, and 2013 State Bar of Texas Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award—Paralegal Division. Sherman is a past Tarrant County Bar Association Paralegal of the Year and Fort Worth Paralegal Association, or FWPA, Paralegal of the Year. She is a past president of FWPA. Sherman is a board-certified in personal injury law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I am currently the Tarrant Volunteer Attorney Services, or TVAS, co-chair. TVAS is one of the two pro bono communities under the Tarrant County Bar Foundation. I have been a member of the TVAS committee for six years. TVAS puts on family law, estate planning, and general advice clinics with facilities such as the Gatehouse, True Worth Place, the Morris Foundation Women’s & Children Center, Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, and Northside Inter-Community Agency, Inc. Prior to my involvement with TVAS, I participated for over 10 years in wills clinics, divorce clinics, and other pro bono events with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, or LANWT, the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, and the Fort Worth Paralegal Association.
Why is pro bono important to you?
I have been blessed in my life. I have a wonderful family and a career I love. I have been a paralegal with Cantey Hanger for 22 years and they are supportive of my pro bono work. Pro bono is my way of giving back to my community and those who are less fortunate. Through pro bono volunteering, I have been given the opportunity to meet and help some extraordinary and gracious people. I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with a great number of amazing and caring attorneys and paralegals.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned that no matter what your skill set, education, or experience, everyone has the ability to help someone in need. I have also learned that I get just as much, if not more, out of helping people than the people I am helping.
What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Don’t wait, there is a lot of need out there. Over 13 percent of Tarrant County residents are below poverty level. You have the ability to help someone that is truly in need of help. It only takes a few hours and you can change someone’s life forever. There is no better feeling than that of helping others.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
It is hard to pick just one, but one of my favorite stories is that of a woman whose husband had left her and their children 30 years earlier. She had no idea where he was. As a single mother, she had been busy working two jobs and raising their children, then their grandchildren. One day a friend of hers gave her a flyer about a pro bono event. That pro bono clinic gave her the ability to finalize something that had been weighing on her for 30 years. I will never forget how excited and grateful she was.