I hope you are returning to work today as I am with memories of a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday spent with family and friends! A happy memory for me every Thanksgiving is one of my son’s holiday’s artwork.
As I took a rest, and enjoyed the slow days of Thanksgiving, I pause to share 5 things I am grateful for as the Executive Director at HVL.
1. I am grateful for the Harvest Celebration.
The festive and fun Harvest Celebration held on November 14th was a great evening. Hundreds of us gathered at River Oaks Country Club to enjoy food, fellowship, and fun with colleagues. A special thanks to the Harvest Celebration Chairs Christian Garza, Chair of the Houston Bar Foundation, Christopher Popov, President of the Houston Bar Association, and David Harrell, Chair of Houston Volunteer Lawyers. Thanks as well to the many law firms, corporate legal departments, and individual sponsors and ticket purchasers who made this event a huge success. It was such a treat to be together again after so many months of staying apart.
2. I am grateful for the Peer-to-Peer Campaign.
For the second year, the Houston Bar Association sponsored the Peer-to-Peer Campaign leading up to the Harvest Celebration. This campaign is an opportunity for individual attorneys, paralegals, and other firm and legal department staff to find a way to make a personal contribution of time, talent, or treasure to HVL. Some individuals made personal donations to HVL. Some firms and law departments sponsored organization-wide activities that raised money. More than 150 of you agreed to handle 192 pro bono cases. 44 attorneys volunteered for their first time at a Friday Legal Advice Clinic. Finally, 11 firms and corporate legal departments invited HVL to make a presentation to their new associates encouraging them to begin their careers with pro bono service as an important part of their work life.
3. I am grateful for an incredible HVL Staff.
In HVL’s role of creating pro bono opportunities for the members of the Bar, HVL’s staff works hard to identify eligible clients who face civil legal issues and need quality legal representation. Providing this service starts with our legal case workers who handle intake and eligibility checks of the thousands of requests for assistance received each year. The next step is to determine which applicants will benefit from advice and counsel and which may need more extended representation.
The HVL staff attorneys do a thorough vetting of the applicants and prepare the cases for pro bono assistance. The pro bono team supports the staff attorneys in matching each case with one of you for representation. Once you say yes, HVL staff attorneys provide support to you throughout the legal process. And, as with your office, administrative staff provide the organizational structure needed to support this work.
It is a continuous process with hundreds of applicants requesting assistance every week. The HVL staff provides excellent client-centered service to this never-ending flow of applicants.
4. I am grateful for the critical financial support from the Houston Bar Foundation.
Of course, all this work requires funding. HVL receives two thirds of our needed funding through grants and private funding, most of which comes with built-in restrictions on how the money may be used. Approximately, the final third comes from the Houston Bar Foundation as unrestricted funds. These funds allow HVL to serve clients who would otherwise be denied legal assistance including non-citizens, some veterans and military families, the working poor, and others who would fall between the cracks. Without the generous support every year from the Houston Bar Foundation, HVL could not be the largest pro bono organization in the state of Texas.
5. I am grateful to you for your commitment to provide pro bono legal services.
And, last but certainly not least, I am grateful to each of you. Only you can provide pro bono legal services. Taking a case might not seem like a form of volunteerism to you. It may feel sometimes like you have just added one more case to your already full caseload. And that is true. But to the client you are assisting, you are generously giving not only your time but your very special expertise to help that client navigate a complex and frightening legal system.
The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors has a Pro Bono Policy that sets an aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono legal services each year for each Texas attorney. Many of you meet and exceed that goal year after year. And you tell me that what you get out of this service is as rewarding for you as it is for the client you have helped.
Thank you for all you do and for helping me with my Gratitude List. I am as touched by your service as I was 20 years ago hanging my son’s handprint turkeys on my refrigerator.