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.
Tiffany Wimberly is a 3L at Baylor Law School and is originally from LaRue. She is a member of the Baylor Law Public Interest Legal Society, Student Wellness Organization, and Baylor Law Barrister Society. Wimberly hopes to practice estate planning and family law.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Baylor Law School has several programs that I have been able to participate in, including veteran, estate planning, immigration, and trial advocacy clinics.
• The veterans clinic provides veterans the opportunity to get legal advice from local attorneys, and depending on the issue and its complexity, also receive pro bono representation. Students perform the intake for the clinic, which helps us focus on issue spotting in real-life situations. This program has been an excellent opportunity to work with local attorneys and get experience with clients. I’ve been participating in this clinic for almost two years fairly consistently.
• The estate planning clinic is an extension of the veterans clinic. Veterans who have come to the clinic for estate planning help can have their wills drafted by students who have volunteered and taken trusts and estates. I have drafted several wills myself, and it has helped me apply the skills I learned in class to real-life situations.
• The immigration clinic provides residents with assistance filling out the Naturalization Form to become a naturalized citizen. This also affords students the opportunity to become more familiar with that process and the measures that it requires. This program is offered around once a quarter, and I have participated once and intend to participate again.
• The trial advocacy clinic involves third-year students getting their temporary trial card and working under the supervision of our clinic director, Josh Borderud. The students represent juveniles in the scope of their detention hearings. I have participated in that clinic for two quarters.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me because I wanted to go into the legal field to help people. I don’t know of a better way to help people and make a difference than to do pro bono work. I grew up in a small town—LaRue—and have lived in medium-sized cities the rest of my life. Being part of the community was always something that I enjoyed.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I’ve learned a lot from doing pro bono, for example: (1) client interactions, (2) advocacy skills, (3) applying legal concepts, and (4) interacting with attorneys.
What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
If I were talking to a fellow student who was thinking about doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell him or her to go for it. One of the greatest things about pro bono is that it is a place to learn from attorneys in a hands-on, real-life setting. I would recommend finding a type of law that you enjoy or are curious about and finding a way to dip your toes into it.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
One of my favorite pro bono success stories was helping a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran (along with another student) settle with a debt collector. I was able to draft an answer with defenses, discovery requests, and a jury demand. It was an awesome experience to follow a client’s issue from start to finish.