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.
Leslie Alvarez is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law and is originally from the Rio Grande Valley. She is very involved with the pro bono program at St. Mary’s and is the vice president of the Public Interest Law Section. Alvarez is working as a student attorney this semester at the St. Mary’s University Consumer Protection Civil Justice Clinic. She plans on practicing disability rights law. Alvarez is also currently working on her master’s degree in public administration.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been a doing pro bono since my 1L year. I am most involved with the free legal services clinics St. Mary’s provides for the community. I am the student volunteer coordinator for the Wills Clinic, Special Education Clinic, Psychiatric Advanced Directives Clinic, and Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I came to law school to pursue my passion for service. Pro bono is a constant reminder that my work is valuable and needed.
What have you learned from doing pro bono work?
Through pro bono I have learned that there is strength in numbers. Every pro bono event consists of several law students, pro bono attorneys, and other community partners. It is amazing to see a group of very different people come together to address the needs of our underrepresented community members.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
For someone who is doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell them that the people they will meet at these events will make their experience worthwhile.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories occurred at our Alternatives to Guardianship Clinic. This clinic serves adults with disabilities and their families in an effort to increase self-determination and independence. This is accomplished by counseling families on their alternatives to guardianship over the adult with a disability; a guardianship takes away an adult’s fundamental rights. In this particular story, we helped an adult with a disability keep their rights by setting them up with a supported decision-making agreement, through which the adult would keep their right to make decisions but would have help from their parents in making decisions. This specific client was very passionate about voting and was ecstatic that they were going to keep their right to vote. That same morning, the client was also registered to vote. For that one client, the clinic served as a life changing moment and it was incredible to be a part of that.