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.
Jose Angel Gutierrez is a 3L at Texas Tech University School of Law and a native of Dumas. He is president of the Intellectual Property Student Association and treasurer of the Hispanic Law Student Association. Gutierrez plans on practicing patent and intellectual property law. He is also in his final year of a dual degree in engineering.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I do a variety of pro bono work. I participate in VITA, Texas Law Help online chat, and I preside over Lubbock County Teen Court. I am also on the Pro Bono Board at Texas Tech University School of Law so I participate in various pro bono projects and help to arrange and advertise the pro bono opportunities for students.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important for me because I grew up in a low-income household and I know how crucial legal aid, and any other type of aid, is to those that without legal aid would not have access to any sort of legal representation.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned so many things from my pro bono participation. Much of it has been substantive law; I have learned things from the trainings and legal research I have done. I have also found out that I have become more understanding, empathetic, and have developed client interaction skills.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
I would encourage anyone to participate in some pro bono projects. I firmly believe that participating in pro bono teaches you valuable skills and makes you a better attorney.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories was when I was preparing income tax returns for students and people that qualify by being under an income threshold. There was a family that came in that only spoke Spanish and I was the only volunteer that spoke Spanish. I will never forget how relieved and grateful the family was when I greeted them and prepared their returns. There are people whose day-to-day lives are improved by doing something as simple as giving up your Saturday morning a few weekends a year and I think that is pretty special.