The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
December 23, 2010

Houston, We Have Pro Bono

Last year, the South Texas Law Review and Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program hosted the 16th Annual Ethics Symposium.  The theme was “Pro Bono Services: Meeting the Ethical Obligations of the Practicing Bar and the Law Schools.”  The event was organized by Elizabeth Dennis, assistant dean and associate professor of clinical studies at South Texas College of Law, and Ellyn Haikin Josef, pro bono coordinator at Vinson & Elkins*,  and brought together attorneys from law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations of all sizes; law school faculty; and law students to contemplate various aspects of pro bono service.  We were delighted to be included in this city-wide pro bono program – Reena N. Glazer, assistant director of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project delivered the keynote address, “Revisiting the Business Case for Law Firm Pro Bono.”   

The conversations were both inspirational and practical.  Community-wide events like the Houston Symposium are particularly important and effective, since they offer unparalleled opportunities to reassess legal services delivery systems and opportunities for pro bono lawyers to maximize their impact.  This symposium had the additional benefit of helping to inculcate the next generation of lawyers.  Studies consistently demonstrate that students who are introduced to pro bono in law school report a far greater likelihood of career-long pro bono participation.  Emphasizing partnerships and other collaborative efforts between and among law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations helps to orient law students to pro bono practice realities in a positive and productive manner.  The discussions provide law students with genuine insight into a variety of perspectives and practical suggestions for developing efficient and meaningful pro bono working relationships.  These types of programs can serve as models for legal communities around the country as they endeavor to ensure that their efforts are making a difference in enhancing access to justice and narrowing the justice gap.  Feel free to contact PBI for assistance in planning an event in your community.

The Symposium program (articles and transcripts) has just been published (at 51 S. Tex. L. Rev. 555-759 (2010)).  Articles include:

  •  Revisiting the Business Case for Law Firm Pro Bono    
  • The Value of Service
  • Pro Bono Service in a Large Urban Setting
  • Is Bigger Better? The Large Law Firm Model of Meeting the Pro Bono Obligation
  • Law Schools Working Together to Increase Access to Justice
  • Pro Bono Services: A Family Law Experience
  • Expansion of the Lawyers’ Role to Problem Solver: Increased Opportunities for Pro Bono Work
  • Impedimenta: The Casting of Spells in American Law Against Immigrant Women and Children Fleeing Violence
  • Being Mindful of the Administration of Justice and Employing That Knowledge in Reform of the Law: How Policy Work Can Affect Change for Many and Fulfill the Ethical Obligations of Texas Lawyers

Food for thought on a range of pro bono topics.  Congratulations to the organizers, law review editors, and participants – and thanks for including the Law Firm Pro Bono Project.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®