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 25-31). 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.
Claire Brown is a spring 2020 graduate of Texas A&M University School of Law and is currently a judicial clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. She plans on practicing public interest immigration law. Brown was a staff member and then citations editor for Law Review, vice president of the 12th Law Man student organization, a student ambassador, a public interest fellow, a research assistant, and vice president of the Saint Thomas More student organization during law school.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I did pro bono work with various organizations while in law school but the bulk of my work was with the Tarrant County Bar Association, or TCBA, and the Immigration Legal Services department of Catholic Charities Dallas, or CCD. I began working at TCBA in October of my 1L year and continued throughout my 3L year. Most of the work I did at TCBA consisted of doing intake for their Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans clinics that are held once a month. I had a public interest fellowship with CCD the first half of the summer after my 2L year and after that, I continued to volunteer regularly at their weekly citizenship workshops.
Why is pro bono important to you?
While I didn’t always know I wanted to be a lawyer, I did always know that I wanted to help people. The legal profession is a unique one in that we have a built-in mechanism that allows us to help people. Pro bono work changes people’s lives and I like being a part of that. I think everyone has an inherent desire to make the world a better place and for me, pro bono is how I make my difference.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Most of the practical things I learned in law school about the legal profession and being a lawyer, I learned from doing pro bono. I came into law school knowing next to nothing about the practice of law or its different areas, but through pro bono, I was exposed to most of the major types of law, which helped me gain a better understanding of what I want to do. I also met many great lawyers through pro bono who taught me how to interact better with people on a personal level and who gave me confidence that I chose the right profession.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from doing pro bono. Pro bono work gives you practical skills about being a lawyer that law school itself does not. Pro bono also gives you skills early on that your classmates do not have and it’s a really great, unique way to network.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
This isn’t a success story per se, but last year I got to help CCD with a mega citizenship workshop that they helped the city of Dallas put on. We had over 150 people in one day come to get help filling out their citizenship applications. Not only was it amazing to see that many people getting help at one time, it was also inspiring to see all the volunteers who came out to help fellow members of the community become American citizens.