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.
Diana Ball is a solo practitioner in Austin.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
My favorite law school professor inspired me to work for reproductive justice, so I began my pro bono work in 2009 volunteering with Jane’s Due Process. In 2013, I started taking cases with Austin-based Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. Hook, line, and sinker! VLS does a fabulous job supporting private attorneys doing the vital work of helping our neighbors with their legal problems.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Doing good is part of why we all became lawyers. I believe providing everyone access to justice is a responsibility we owe in exchange for the privilege of calling ourselves lawyers.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Wow! So much! My civil litigation and insurance defense experience has come in handy. But now I’ve learned enough about family, probate, landlord/tenant, labor, benefits, and real estate law to be dangerous! Personally, I have loved the challenge of learning new areas of law. And the reassuring aspect of working through VLS/your local legal aid organization is that they provide you with all of the cheat sheets and board-certified mentors you need to confidently give accurate and effective advice.
What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Just do it! Seriously, you will gain so much personal satisfaction from both stretching your legal wings and knowing you helped someone solve a real life problem. And it’s fun—you might make lasting connections! I now go to all family gatherings of one client, and I had a blast taking an elder client out to a dive bar to hear a locally celebrated soul singer … turned out they knew each other “back in the day” and reforged their friendship!
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
Two, if I may?! First, I had a garden variety divorce case, but the husband had been deported for domestic violence. VLS connected me with the State Bar of Texas Access to Justice attorneys, who helped me secure the translated documents required to perfect the tedious and lengthy Hague Convention service of process on the foreign husband. Second, in a real Perry Mason moment, I sat rather awed as a scammy used car retailer counted out and handed over the $8,000 in cash that my client deserved to recover when the car he promised didn’t come through.