The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) recognized lawyers, firms, judges and others who provide free legal services to indigent residents in Dallas County at an Oct. 18 reception in the Belo Mansion.
DVAP, a joint program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, named John O’Connor (pictured, left), a litigation associate with Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Dallas, the Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year for his services to indigent clients.
“I felt incredibly honored to receive the award,” O’Connor says.
O’Connor says that through Weil’s Lend-a-Lawyer program, he was able to work full-time for DVAP in August, September and October 2011 while still receiving compensation and benefits from the firm. Over the course of the year, O’Connor says, he provided almost 500 hours of pro bono work, handling general family law and consumer protection cases.
“It’s been a great experience getting to work with DVAP,” he says.
O’Connor, a 2007 graduate of the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, says he is a sixth year associate at Weil and works in the complex litigation group.
DVAP presented the Lisa Blue and Fred Baron Access to Justice Award to KoonsFuller in recognition of its dedication to pro bono work and service to the less fortunate.
Ike Vanden Eykel (pictured, center), KoonsFuller’s managing shareholder, says his firm is “thrilled” to receive the award. “We believe in pro bono, but we also put our money where our mouth is,” he says.
Vanden Eykel says KoonsFuller helps train non-family law attorneys, staffing all of DVAP’s training sessions for other Dallas firms. He says the firm also handles pro bono work and that Ken Fuller, a retired KoonsFuller partner, spends at least two days a week at DVAP working on cases.
DVAP also recognized Fulbright & Jaworski as the Pro Bono Firm of the Year.
Norlynn B. Price (pictured, right), the partner in charge of the pro bono program in Fulbright’s Dallas office, says the firm’s lawyers and staff put in more than 1,600 hours of pro bono service in 2011, working at the monthly Dallas area legal clinics hosted by DVAP and at the monthly veterans’ clinics, which DVAP co-hosts with the Dallas Bar Association.
“We all have a commitment to give back to the community, so we don’t do it for the recognition,” Price says. “We’re happy to be involved.”
-- Mary Alice Robbins
Robbins is an Austin-based freelance writer and a former Texas Lawyer senior reporter.