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.

Tanner Hartnett is an associate of the Hartnett Law Firm in Dallas. She is a member of the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. Hartnett is also the attorney coach for Ursuline Academy’s mock trial team. She was named the 2016 “Outstanding Small Firm Attorney” by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP. Hartnett is a graduate of Texas Tech University School of Law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I work with probate and guardianship pro bono cases, and I took my first DVAP case within, I think, weeks of passing the bar exam in 2013.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I enjoy giving back to the community, but with a full-time job and two kids, it can be hard to find time. DVAP allows me to continue to serve individuals who are trying to do right by their families, and it’s important to me to provide them the opportunity to do that.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned so much both professionally and personally. Professionally, never does a case go by without an interesting twist I haven’t seen before. It gives me the chance to explore all aspects of my field and get to know issue areas I may not have otherwise addressed. Personally, it’s easy to take for granted my access to help and knowledge about the legal field. So many people just need a helping hand, and it’s up to us to give them that.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Don’t fear the unknown. The cases may prove challenging or be from an area you are unfamiliar with, but DVAP has mentor attorneys who can guide you through. No matter what, it will be worth it to you both personally and professionally.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories
I can’t limit it to one, but every time I complete a guardianship case the look of relief on the parent or guardian’s face is so rewarding. Their life is already challenging and having the peace of mind that they will be able to continue to care for their loved one is truly a blessing for them.