News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
October 25, 2010

Texas Joins National Pro Bono Week Celebration

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation Encourage Attorneys to Provide Pro Bono Services to the More Than 5.7 Million Texans Who Qualify for Legal Aid
 

AUSTIN, Texas  The Texas Access to Justice Commission, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and Texas legal aid service providers are joining a national effort to highlight the increasing need to expand access to justice through pro bono civil legal services. Texas Pro Bono Week will be recognized throughout the state from Monday, Oct. 25, through Friday, Oct. 29, with free legal aid clinics and other events. 

 “As more Texans qualify for legal aid, it is important that we recognize attorneys who provide pro bono legal services, and encourage other lawyers to help fill the gap between available legal aid services and the need for additional help for indigent Texans with civil legal issues.” Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, said. “Especially in the current economy, the amount of time and resources that are dedicated to pro bono cases by hard-working attorneys throughout the state is admirable,”

 According to a survey by the University of North Texas Survey Research Center, Texas lawyers contributed roughly $13.17 million to $15.06 million in out-of-pocket expenses related to legal services to the poor in 2009. The survey also found that a total of 2.24 million to 2.56 million hours of free legal or indirect services to the poor were provided by Texas lawyers. Even so, there is a large unmet need:  It is estimated that there is only one legal aid lawyer for every 10,838 Texans who qualify for legal aid.

For some attorneys, the gratification of helping someone in need is reason enough to provide pro bono services. Donald Johnston, an attorney in private practice in Sherman, has been volunteering with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas since before 1987 when the Grayson County legal aid clinic was founded. He has been named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year numerous times with over 100 hours of service each year. “Other avenues for community service do not compare with helping a client in need. When that ‘need’ has a face, the inclination to volunteer becomes a passion,” Johnson said. “I encourage other attorneys to become active in pro bono work with the hope that they too find their passion to help Texans in need.”

Texas Pro Bono Week launches with a Supreme Court of Texas luncheon hosted by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and Justice Nathan L. Hecht on Monday, Oct. 25, that will provide a report on the current state of the legal aid system in Texas. Other events planned across the state include the 5th Annual Pro Bono Awards Event hosted by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas in Midland, the Community Justice Program Divorce Clinic hosted by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Brownsville, and the Pro Bono Awards hosted by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. A complete list of Texas events can be found by visiting: www.probono.net/celebrateprobono/events/location.2010-10-01.Texas.   Videos of client and lawyer pro bono stories can be found at: http://texasbar.informz.net/texasbar/archives/archive_955568.html

 

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The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, please visit www.texasatj.org.

The created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texans each year.

Contact:

Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104
kschmitt@teajf.org

 

 

 

 

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