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.

Eric Michael Garza is counsel to Norton Rose Fulbright in San Antonio. His practice primarily focuses on product liability, mass tort, financial institutions, and insurance. Garza is a graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I volunteer with American Gateways at their citizenship clinics, assisting legal permanent residents complete their Application for Naturalization so they may become citizens. I also volunteer quarterly at the Bexar County Community Justice Program’s wills clinic and assist recipients of homes from Habit for Humanity draft and execute a will covering their new residence. During the past year, I have taken on two separate pro bono matters through the CJP. The first matter required assisting an individual who lost her parent in the Southerland Springs tragedy, and currently, I am assisting an indigent client with a child support issue.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I understand the privilege it is to have a legal education and license to practice law. With this privilege comes the social responsibility of assisting and advocating for those without. The cost of helping our most vulnerable community members is a fraction of what they would endure without our assistance. I have not only seen how great the need for pro bono work is as a volunteer attorney, I experienced it as someone who once needed an attorney but was without the means to afford one.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Assisting individuals in pro bono matters is a reminder of the magnitude of what we can accomplish as licensed attorneys, far beyond our typical areas of practice, and incredibly impactful on the lives of those we serve.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
What are you waiting for? There is such a need out there for volunteer attorneys and so many resources to assist you with your pro bono matter. Do not let a lack of experience keep you from volunteering.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My favorite pro bono success story is from 2018, when the San Antonio legal community came together for Pro Bono Day. Thanks to local volunteer attorneys and the Pro Bono Program team at St. Mary’s University School of Law, in a single day 100 people were assisted with legal questions/needs that would have otherwise gone unmet.