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.
Hannah Cramer is a Plano native and is currently a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law. She is the student coordinator for the pro bono program, site coordinator for the ID Recovery program, vice chair of the board of advocates, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, and a staff writer for the Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review for Race and Social Justice.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I participate in most of the law school’s pro bono workshops and am frequently at the ID Recovery program. I have been volunteering with ID Recovery since the fall of my 1L year. Law students, under the supervision of our pro bono director, go to Haven for Hope every Friday and conduct intakes with clients who are experiencing homelessness.
Why is pro bono important to you?
It’s important for me to use my knowledge and resources to help individuals who do not have the same resources and pro bono work allows me to do this. Also, selfishly, I feel really good when I’ve helped someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive services.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
By doing pro bono, I have learned a lot about interacting with clients and how to be a professional advocate. Many of the clients at ID Recovery are going through a very tough part of their life, and serving them has taught me how to be a compassionate advocate while maintaining professionalism.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
If a fellow law student asked me about doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell them it is the best choice I made at law school. You will receive real-world experience, network with local attorneys, and learn more than you could ever learn by sitting in the classroom. Pro bono is the perfect way to see what you’ve read about in casebooks in real life.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My favorite pro bono success story is about one of my clients at ID Recovery. This client had an intellectual disability and I was nervous that he wouldn’t be able to follow-up the following week to receive his documents. I conducted his intake and then worried about him all week and whether he would remember to come back. He came back next week and was able to get his ID! For most people this doesn’t mean much, but for this client that meant he could access his food stamps, and hopefully find permanent housing.