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 20-26). 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.

Ashley Rich is a 3L at SMU Dedman School of Law and is a native of Dallas. She is a member of the mock trial team, SMU Board of Advocates, Association for Public Interest Law, Criminal Law Society, SMU Student Bar Association, and is a 1L mentor. Rich plans on practicing criminal law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My pro bono work has been in immigration law and the criminal justice system, and I have been involved in pro bono since my first year of law school.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I believe that we all have a responsibility to use our abilities to help those around us. I am very lucky to have the opportunity to study law and feel that we all should give back.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Through doing pro bono I have learned a variety of legal skills and gained invaluable experience working with many different people on limited resources. I have also been able to meet many amazing and hardworking attorneys who have served as mentors and inspirations to me.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Put yourself out there and go for it! Pro bono work has given me a greater sense of purpose during the times that it is easy to get bogged down by the law school workload. Additionally, the need for pro bono in your community is great. Do not feel like you are unable to do anything because you are a law student, there are plenty of opportunities for students to do good work and learn.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories
Doing pro bono work is often about celebrating the little victories. This is especially true in immigration because it is a long and complicated process. Victims of violent crime have additional hurdles, so receiving an employment authorization card for a client or having a temporary restraining order granted to protect a client from an abuser is a win.