The Texas Access to Justice Commission (TAJC) recently won a $21,965 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation for a new pro bono winter break program. It will allow more than 60 law students and professors from the state’s nine law schools to take weeklong trips to rural Texas towns. The professors will supervise as the students work with legal-aid providers.
“We think it will both deliver some real legal aid to people who need it, but also it will be a great learning experience for the law students,” says TACJ chairman Harry Reasoner, adding, “We hope we’ll make them realize doing pro bono work is one of the most personally fulfilling things a lawyer can do.”
The grant funds will pay for travel and living expenses for the students during their trips, says Reasoner, a partner in Vinson & Elkins in Houston. He says the students could help with briefing or research for litigation, counsel people about applying for public benefits, assist other lawyers with domestic-violence or wrongful-foreclosure cases, and more. If the program is successful, the TACJ would like to offer it every year, Reasoner says.
Gib Walton (pictured), chairman of the Texas Bar Foundation, says the foundation unanimously approved funding 100 percent of the TAJC’s program.
“It just looked like a fabulous program that would accomplish a lot of things: It provides some very needed services . . . and it would expose young law students to the potential career path of working for one of the three legal-aid organizations in Texas,” says Walton, partner in Hogan Lovells in Houston.
-- Angela Morris