TYLA eNews | ATJ UPDATE
By Catherine Galloway
When members of the Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association (WMCYLA) got together to brainstorm ideas that would increase service to the community and meet the needs of its residents, the Pro Bono Challenge was born. Launched in April 2015, the Challenge was designed to promote pro bono service throughout the community and highlight lawyers who donate their time and talent to the cause. For its first year, the goal was to provide 1,000 hours of pro bono. The WMCYLA partnered with Baylor Law School for the initiative which assisted in soliciting pro bono involvement and handled record keeping for the Challenge. Together, these organizations collaborated to help the WMCYLA ‘take the gold’!
Baylor offered its Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Immigration and Veterans Clinics, the People’s Law School, and Pro Bono Litigation and Pro Bono Transaction Teams to attorneys interested in volunteering their time and expertise. Several other local legal service providers, including Lone Star Legal Aid of Waco, McLennan County Dispute Resolution Center, Family Abuse Center, and Mission Waco Legal Services also participated in the Challenge. “It has been enormously rewarding for our young lawyers to promote, coordinate, and participate in pro bono efforts in Waco and to honor our local attorneys who so generously donate their time and talent to the less fortunate,” expressed Josh Borderud, Director of the Veterans’ Clinic at Baylor Law School and Immediate Past President of the WMCYLA.
By the year’s end, with more than 600 attorneys making up the Waco-McLennan County’s young lawyer and regular bar association membership, they had more than doubled the initial goal with 2,269 hours of pro bono service. The law school hosted a year-end “Thank You” CLE and luncheon for all participating attorney. Ralph E. Cooper, a solo practitioner, and Matt Czimskey, of Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwisk & Dickson, LLP, were individually recognized for contributing more than 100 hours of pro bono each during the Challenge. “If someone comes to me and needs help but can’t afford to pay, I will always help them. The Pro Bono Challenge has been a great way to give back to my community,” shared Cooper. “I’m still working with Kent McKeever at Mission Waco Legal Services, handling family law cases. I believe it is my job to respond with love to people who need help. I treat my practice like a ministry by helping others.”
The Texas Access to Justice Commission presented the WMCYLA with the Deborah G. Hankinson Award for its Pro Bono Challenge last month at the State Bar’s Bar Leaders Conference in Houston. The award, named after access to justice champion and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson, honors local bar associations and young lawyer affiliates that demonstrate a commitment to access to justice in their communities and to raising financial support for legal service providers on a local and statewide basis.
There are many bridges that can be built to help low-income Texans gain access to the courts. Congressional and legislative changes that lead to systemic change, increases in funding, and Do-It-Yourself forms are all tools for building those bridges. Paramount to increasing access to justice in Texas are Texas attorneys who selflessly give their time and expertise to help our friends and neighbors who seek justice but cannot afford it. The Commission applauds the great work of the WMCYLA and encourages other young lawyer associations to continue their access to justice efforts in their local communities and around the state.
Is your association shooting for the gold? ATJmail@texasbar.com
Catherine Galloway is the Development and Communications Manager at the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Prior to working as the Development and Communications Manager, she worked as a program developer for the Commission and the Legal Access Division of the State Bar and with the Communications Division and the Executive Department of the State Bar of Texas.