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.
Jacqueline B. Williams is the owner and lead attorney at J.B. Williams in Allen. She practices in the areas of family law, juvenile justice, personal injury, and contract law.
What kind of pro bono work do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been taking pro bono cases through Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas since 2000. Prior to that, I volunteered only at clinics in Dallas. I’ve tried to continue attending clinics to help out since that time and to try to attend one clinic each month. I’ve generally handled family law matters, everything from divorces and custody modifications to child support and wills. Over the years I have felt more confident in handling matters involving family violence.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
There are always people who need assistance but cannot afford an attorney to assist them. Sometimes their matters are fairly simple (at least for attorneys) and other times they are extremely complicated. But I feel that every matter I have handled has allowed the client to be fairly represented and has provided him or her with the security that someone was on his or her side. I’ve met people at their worst time, and for those through Legal Aid, at their worst financial time as well. Nearly every client I’ve spoken with at the clinics has been extremely happy and courteous. And I’ve sometimes heard back from some of the them as they have moved forward in life and things have improved for them—little cards or emails telling me that they are so happy to be past that point and to thank me for my time. It’s a wonderful feeling giving back to individuals and their families.
What is your favorite pro bono story?
My favorite was a case where the client went to a clinic for assistance only after her mother insisted. I could tell at the initial meeting when I agreed to handle the matter that she was considering returning to the marriage situation. I was able to express my concern after listening to a lot of details, spending more time than with most clients for the initial interview. When the client left, she was willing to move forward and file for the divorce. While the case was pending there were several incidents, and the client would call me panicked and ready to back down but always ended the calls feeling better and wanting to move forward. The family had tried for years to get her to walk away but the lack of finances and fears had held her hostage. She sent me a beautiful card after and thanked me for providing her the support and strength she needed. I had that card tacked on my board for years to remind me that sometimes they just need to know that someone they’ve never met believes in them and is willing to help them get free.