Bar associations from around the state were honored for their commitment to access to justice issues on July 22 during the State Bar of Texas 2023 Local Bar Leaders Conference in Houston.

Terry O. Tottenham, a commissioner on the Texas Access to Justice Commission and past president of the State Bar of Texas, presented the Deborah G. Hankinson Awards on behalf of the commission during the conference.

These awards honor local bar associations and young lawyer affiliates that demonstrate a commitment to access to justice by creating initiatives that increase access to civil legal services, increase awareness of access to justice issues, or raise funds for legal aid providers on a local and statewide basis.

The Jefferson County Bar Association was selected as winner for Division I, which includes bars with fewer than 500 members. It was recognized for its full-time pro bono program that provided legal services to over 100 community members; a Veterans Legal Initiative that provided pro bono services to veterans; a National Adoption Day collaboration program that provided for adoption services at reduced costs; and its Second Chance SETX program, which seals criminal records or offers expunctions in Jefferson, Hardin, and Orange counties.

The Austin Bar Association was selected as winner for Division III, which includes bars with 2,000 or more members. It was recognized for launching, developing, and sustaining numerous pro bono programs, such as their Adoption Day, CANLAW clinic for helping cancer patients with end-of-life planning, their Self-Represented Litigant Project supporting litigants on the uncontested civil docket, and their Veterans Initiative that has helped over 6,000 veterans since its inception. Additionally, their DEI committee supports diversity in the legal profession and compiles resources and information for historically disadvantaged individuals to aid their efforts to access the justice system. They support the operations of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas and operate the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, which offers reduced-fee attorneys for eligible applicants.