Hero: /hiro/: a person who is admired for achievements and noble qualities. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
By the definition above, it is easy to see why we chose the theme of “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” for this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign. In this endeavor, our EAJ heroes are admired not for their achievements, but for their commendable quality of giving back. To generously give to others is a gracious trait—whether that giving is in the form of donating pro bono hours or by generously contributing to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign in the amount of $25,500—which is exactly what Jerry and Sherri Alexander have done.
Throughout the Alexanders’ long history of service to the Dallas legal community, they have given both time and monetary donations. Sherri is a prominent health care lawyer and a partner in the Polsinelli firm, and Jerry is president and a shareholder at Passman & Jones, a former president of the Dallas Bar Association (the 107th president), and presently the chair of the board of the State Bar of Texas.
With this year’s generous gift, the Alexanders have donated more than $138,376 to legal aid for the poor since 2006, along with a $50,000 pledge to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, Endowment.
Without heroes like this, DVAP would not be able to provide free legal aid to the poor in Dallas, support its 16-member staff and over 3,000 volunteers, and offer legal clinics to advise and represent clients, which it has done since 1982.
So in all of their charitable giving, why do they choose to support DVAP?
“One of the reasons we support DVAP is because of their effort in providing attorneys for litigants in civil matters who cannot afford representation, such as the monthly Prove-Up Clinics held at the courthouse where volunteer attorneys meet their clients to prove up their cases, and receive free legal assistance,” Sherri said. “Citizens of Dallas think of the courthouse, which has courts and judges and lawyers in it, as a place to go to look for help—a good and hopeful thing for all of us. DVAP nurtures that.”
Every year, DVAP recruits attorneys and other volunteers to staff legal intake clinics and accept cases for full representation. DVAP puts on many CLE events each year to train all these volunteers and raises $1 million every year to keep it all going.
“I am always impressed that so many attorneys in Dallas step up to do good works through DVAP each year, whether they are volunteering their time or donating funds to support the operations of DVAP,” Jerry said.
“In addition, as chair of the board of the State Bar of Texas this year, I and all members of the board have been charged with focusing on ‘attorney wellness.’ The Texas Young Lawyers Association has attorney wellness as one of its main focuses this year. The reason is it is estimated that fully 30% of the attorneys presently practicing suffer from depression and depression-related illnesses at any given time. What attorneys who take a pro bono case find is it gives them a lift and makes them feel better about themselves and what they do. Triple win. Win for anyone who makes a contribution, win for the person who needs representation, win for the attorney who is helping someone who really needs an attorney.”
The commitment of these Dallas legal heroes to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign is impressive. Since 1997, the DBA and Legal Aid have joined forces to raise money for the program, with Dallas lawyers donating almost $14 million. Many thanks to Jerry and Sherri for their support and for continuing to be pro bono heroes!
DVAP is a joint pro bono program of the DBA and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program is the only one of its kind in Texas and brings together the volunteer resources of a major metropolitan bar association with the legal aid expertise of the largest and oldest civil legal aid program in North Texas. For more information, or to donate, go to www.dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.
This article, which was originally published in the November 2019 edition of the Dallas Bar Association’s Headnotes, has been edited and reprinted with permission.
Michelle Alden is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.