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.
Asha Brown, a Bakersfield, California, native and a 3L at Baylor Law School, will graduate on November 10. She is a student ambassador who is involved in myriad activities including Diversity in Law, Black Law Student Association, American Association of Justice Mock Trial Competition Team, Battle of the Expert Mock Trial Competition team, Public Interest Legal Society-Adoption Day, Baylor Academy of the Advocate in St. Andrews, Baylor Law & Wills Trust clinic, Veterans clinic, Juvenile clinic, and Municipal Court clinic. Brown plans on practicing criminal law and has secured a clerkship with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals from 2019 to 2020.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been working with the free veterans legal clinic that is part of Baylor Law School’s clinic program for two years. I have also been part of the Wills and Estate Planning clinic for two years. My role has been to help first responders whose income is under 200 percent of the federal poverty limit who wish to have a last will and testament, power of attorney, etc. I have done legal advice online a few times where people in the community submit legal questions and we, as law students, work with lawyers to do research and solve their problems for them. Since I received my bar card three months ago, I have worked in the juvenile clinic representing juveniles for their first appearance hearings. Also, these past few months, I have been working to represent indigent criminal defendants in municipal court.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important because it is the foundation of my love for the legal system. Growing up, I started to realize how many aspects of your life have legal consequences. However, many people cannot afford counsel and they are taken advantage of and that is not what the legal system should be about. I believe that people should not be taken advantage of because they don’t know any better. Further, I don’t believe anyone should miss out on the important things in life, like making sure you have a will, just because you can’t afford an attorney.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned how blessed I am and how much I have to give to the world. I grew up poor and disadvantaged. I knew very little about how the world operated outside the neighborhood I lived in. However, I continued my education and have always strived to learn more—and now that I have the knowledge, I feel that it is my duty to impart that knowledge to those who are less fortunate. I have also learned that there is not enough pro bono out in the world and there should be more.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
I would tell him or her that this is a great opportunity to learn about the law, about helping real people, and about appreciating something bigger. Being in law school you sometimes lose sight of the realness of the law when your mind is enthralled in reading 50-year-old cases and you don’t have clients. However, doing pro bono work will remind you why you came to law school in the first place and help keep your eyes on the purpose throughout your journey.