Local bar associations from around the state were applauded for their commitment to access-to-justice issues during the State Bar of Texas’s annual Local Bar Leaders Conference in Houston.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman presented the Pro Bono Service and Deborah G. Hankinson awards on behalf of the Texas Access to Justice Commission on Aug. 2 at the Westin Galleria.
The Pro Bono Service Award recognizes local bar associations and sections of the State Bar that have created self-sustaining pro bono projects that motivate lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance to poor Texans. State Bar sections and local bar organizations are categorized according to membership size — small, medium, and large — and compete against similarly sized groups.
The 2014 Pro Bono Service Award winners received a certificate of recognition and a $1,000 check to reinvest in the winning program. Winners included: Small Sections or Bars (fewer than 500 members)
— The Austin County Bar for its Free Legal Clinics program, which provides weekly clinics where clients receive assistance from volunteer attorneys.
Medium Sections or Bars (501 to 2,000 members)
—The Hidalgo County Bar Foundation for its Community Justice Program Clinic, which provides bi-monthly clinics to Hidalgo County residence seeking a divorce.
Large Sections or Bars (more than 2,001 members)
— The San Antonio Bar Association for its Community Justice Program, which hosts a variety of legal clinics in the areas of family law, wills, veterans, and nonprofit. The San Antonio Bar also spearheaded the “Adopt-A-Clinic” initiative, a collaboration among law firms, fellow bar associations, and corporations.
The Deborah G. Hankinson Award honors bar associations and young lawyer affiliates that demonstrate a commitment to access to justice in their communities and increasing funds for legal aid, either locally or statewide.
The 2014 Hankinson Award winners are as follows:
Division I (fewer than 500 members)
—The Smith County Bar Association for its volunteer program, using a volunteer coordinator to recruit volunteer attorneys and the development of a mentoring and training program.
Division II (501 to 900 members)
—The Hidalgo County Bar for its monthly divorce clinics, wills clinics, and the Wills for Heroes Program, a collaborative effort with the University of Texas Pan-America, designed to benefit retired veterans residing in Hidalgo County. In addition, the bar expanded volunteer recruitment to legal secretaries and paralegals from private firms.
Division III (901 to 5,000 members)
— The Tarrant County Bar Association for numerous events designed to enhance its pro bono efforts. The Charity Golf Tournament provides one Texas A&M University School of Law student internship opportunity, in which the student gets to work closely with the Tarrant County Volunteer Attorneys to interview clients and assist with case work. The association’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans sponsors CLEs specific to veterans’ legal needs, and other legal clinics are tailored to meet the needs of clients residing in Tarrant County.