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.
Kelsey Aubrey is a 3L at SMU Dedman School of Law and is a native of Moraga, California. During law school, she has been involved with the Dallas Kids Project, Women in Law, and the Association for Public Interest Law. After graduation, Aubrey plans to purse a career as a public interest attorney and hopes to work at a medical-legal partnership.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have interned with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, or LANWT, since January 2019. I have had the pleasure of interning with LANWT’s new program, the Tarrant County Medical-Legal Partnership, which is a collaboration with MHMR of Tarrant County, the area’s largest mental health services provider. The medical-legal partnership is an interdisciplinary approach to healing the whole person by addressing a patient-client’s underlying civil legal needs that impact his or her health and life outcomes. I see this partnership as an innovative approach to serving patient-clients, reducing overall health care spending and providing access to justice for many people in our community. I am honored to be a part of this work every week.
Prior to starting my internship with the medical-legal partnership, I served as a legal intern at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. HRI offers free legal services for immigrants who have suffered human rights abuses. I spent my 1L summer with HRI as an intern with their children’s program and loved every minute.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Access to legal representation is a critical component to addressing some of life’s most pressing issues. Without access to legal representation, many of our patient-clients would experience homelessness, hunger, extreme poverty, unstable family relationships, and more. Pro bono legal representation offers clients a fresh start and a chance for justice. Pro bono is important to me because access to legal representation is a civil right in my book.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
The single most important take away I have experienced from doing pro bono work is that it is entirely possible to have a legal career doing something I am really passionate about doing every day. I love working directly with clients who really need legal representation, and now I know that I can find a job post-graduation in a field in which I am most interested. It’s very easy in law school to get swept up into doing what everyone else is doing. But doing pro bono work showed me that it’s perfectly acceptable to forge your own path.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pick something you’re passionate about! I chose to work with HRI because I previously taught children of immigrants fearing violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle and so I was very drawn to that cause. Now, my internship with the medical-legal partnership allows me to bridge my interests in mental health, equity, and education. Since I am interested in the work, I learn more quickly, I am excited to go to my internship, and I leave each day feeling fulfilled by the idea that I helped people in need.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of our client’s suffered a mental health crisis and was on the road to recovery when she was faced with an eviction due to housekeeping issues that stemmed from her mental health crisis. We were able to show that the notice of the eviction was improper and keep her housing intact. We are now working to get her a reasonable accommodation for her mental health diagnosis. She is happy to be staying in her home, and she recently got a job. It is really fulfilling to see our clients happy and moving forward in their lives.