With a current Texas bar license, you can volunteer at one of our legal advice clinics or represent a client pro bono. To volunteer at a legal advice clinic (no obligation to take a case), register online or e-mail our Pro Bono Coordinator.

Find a pro bono case that is right for you by using our Pro Bono Portal, where you can:

  • Seach our live list of waiting cases
  • Sort by law type
  • Immediately download the documents you need
  • Access legal resource materials, including digital forms
  • Contact the staff attorney mentor assigned to your case

Sign up for e-news about upcoming events, available cases, and training opportunities!

 

 

Table of Contents

  1. How to Find a Pro Bono Case
  2. How to Volunteer Without Taking a Case
  3. Volunteer Resources
  4. How Do I Access the HVL Pro Bono Portal?
  5. Close a Case Online

How to Find a Pro Bono Case

HVL has a wide variety of pro bono cases available for volunteers.  You can find a case that is right for you in a number of ways:

  1. Online.  HVL is home to a one-of-a-kind online Pro Bono Portal that allows you to see a live list of waiting cases, searchable by law type, client profile, language spoken, case age, and much more.  You can review case summaries for each waiting case, run conflicts checks, accept a case on the spot, download all of the relevant case documents in PDF, and get started. 

  2. Email.  HVL sends weekly e-newsletters to its volunteers with links to available cases. Subscribe here.

  3. Through Another Organization.  Law firms and corporate legal departments that participate in the Houston Bar Association’s Equal Access to Justice Champions Program may count pro bono matters handled through other legal service organizations towards up to one-third of the firm’s Equal Access target.  To count, the work of such organizations must further HVL’s mission to provide free legal services to low-income individuals in the Houston area.  Approved organizations include, but are not limited to:

    • AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse)
    • Beacon Law
    • Boatpeople SOS
    • Catholic Charities Cabrini Center
    • Disability Rights Texas
    • Dispute Resolution Center
    • Earl Carl Institute
    • Human Rights First
    • KIND (Kids in Need of Defense)
    • Lone Star Legal Aid
    • Memorial Assistance Ministries
    • Neighborhood Centers
    • Tahirih Justice Center
    • Texas C-Bar
    • Texas Civil Rights Project
    • YMCA International
  4. Attend a Clinic.  One of the best ways to find a pro bono case is to volunteer at a legal advice clinic and choose to help someone you meet. See our upcoming clinics here.

  5. Personal Request.  Contact our Pro Bono Department or any HVL Staff Attorney to find a case for you.

 

How to Volunteer Without Taking a Case

HVL hosts a variety of legal advice clinics throughout the year.  We use clinics to perform intake.  We recruit and depend on volunteer attorneys, firms, and corporations to help staff these clinics.  Clinic volunteers are not obligated to take on a pro bono case, though experience tells us that many volunteers find pro bono cases that they are passionate about through our clinics! 

Intake clinics typically last two to three hours and are held at various community centers and social service agencies throughout the greater Houston area.  Each clinic begins with a brief training, and an HVL staff attorney is always present to help you.  The volunteer attorney’s task is to assess the applicant’s legal issue, provide initial legal advice, and gather and note relevant facts.  Individual interviews typically last between 20 to 30 minutes, with each volunteer seeing between three and five applicants at a clinic.   HVL staff attorneys use the notes taken by volunteers at the clinic to make decisions about whether to accept a case for long-term representation. 

Legal Advice Clinics are an excellent volunteer opportunity for lawyers in all areas and at every experience level. Clinic dates and locations are listed on the HVL website here.  To volunteer for a clinic, advance notice is not required, but please contact our Pro Bono Coordinator to ensure we are not going to be overstaffed. **NEW** You can now sign up online to volunteer at a clinic!  Click here to browse upcoming opportunities.

Volunteer Resources

What Resources Does HVL Provide Volunteers?

HVL makes pro bono easy!  We provide:

Mentors

HVL staff attorneys are charged with helping HVL’s pro bono volunteers.  Staff attorneys are present at every HVL clinic and also are assigned to every pro bono case.  Volunteers with HVL pro bono matters receive the direct contact information of their staff attorney mentor in their initial case referral packet. 

In addition, HVL and the HBA Family Law Section have established a formal family law mentor program that connects law firms and corporate legal departments with experienced private family lawyers. 

Forms and Legal Resources

A host of forms and topical resources are available to volunteers via the Portal.  Login and choose “My Open Cases” from the Main Menu.  Select a matter that is open under your name, and links to all available resources will appear at the bottom of the screen.  You may also contact any HVL staff attorney for help finding or using a form or legal resource.

Training

HVL provides numerous training and CLE opportunities throughout the year.  Opportunities are posted on the HVL website, distributed via the HVL e-newsletter, and posted on the Portal.

In addition, HVL is happy to provide tailored training seminars and workshops at your firm upon request.  Simply contact our Pro Bono Department if you are interested.

Free Interpreters

HVL is proud to be an approved provider of the State Bar’s Language Access services.  A volunteer with an active HVL case can access free telephonic (1-800-number) interpreter services for any language at any time (including American Sign Language).  Also available by request are document translation and in-court interpreter services.  Instructions are available on the Portal and are included in the initial case referral packet when applicable.

How Do I Access the HVL Pro Bono Portal?

The Pro Bono Portal is a wonderful tool that allows you to see a live list of HVL’s waiting cases, sort and filter them by law type, client profile, language, and more, download case documents, and access resources such as mentor contact information, forms, and CLE material. 

The Portal address is https://portal.makejusticehappen.org.  Below is an instructional PowerPoint with details about the Portal's features.

How to Register If You Have Volunteered with HVL Before

  1. Go to https://portal.makejusticehappen.org
  2. Under the “Registration” headline, select the first option: “If you have taken a case with us in the past or have already added yourself to our database, click HERE to create a username.”
  3. Enter your Texas bar number, first name, and last name.
  4. You will be prompted to create a login and password, and then you can begin using the site!

How to Register If You Are New to HVL

  1. Go to https://portal.makejusticehappen.org
  2. Under the “Registration” headline, select the second  option: “If you are new to helping us, click HERE to submit your information”
  3. Enter your information.  After our staff confirms your registration, you will receive an email prompting you to create a login and password.
  4. Once you receive the email confirmation, go to the Portal website again. 
  5. Under the “Registration” headline, select the first option: “If you have taken a case with us in the past or have already added yourself to our database, click HERE to create a username.”
  6. Enter your Texas bar number, first name, and last name.
  7. You will be prompted to create a login and password, and then you can begin using the site!

Close a Case Online