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 24-30). 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.
David Joseph “D.J.” Deutch is a 2L at SMU Dedman School of Law and is originally from Sydney, Australia. Before coming to law school, he worked for the United Nations in the Middle East on issues of economic development and human rights law. Deutch is currently externing with the federal public defender’s office in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He plans on practicing criminal law and working as a public defender. Deutch holds a master of public administration from Columbia University.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Building on my local community work, I have been undertaking pro bono work with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, or LANWT, with its Community Revitalization Project mostly in the summer between my 1L and 2L year.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Ultimately, the law is the dominant mechanism for ordering the rules of the world. As those who have intimate access and knowledge to how these processes operate, I feel that lawyers have a moral duty to ensure that someone’s access to justice isn’t limited by who they can hire. Pro bono work is our way of truly leveling the scale.
What have you learned from doing pro bono work?
That far too many attorneys don’t understand their own legal career through a moral lens. As such, they very rarely consider the impact they are or are not having on the world around them.
What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
There will be no better way to understand the potential power that a law degree has. There is a wide gap between advocating for someone and advocating for their fundamental interests and rights.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
The most inspiring outcome of pro bono work is when people understand that their interests and voices matter. In the summer, we supported a local group in their building of a case against a local polluter. While the pieces are still in the works, the emboldening of a community when they know that they have legal tools available to them is a win in and of itself.