Austin nonprofit Texas Appleseed will honor Susman Godfrey founders Steve Susman and Lee Godfrey and Locke Lord at a Nov. 21 dinner celebrating Texas lawyers' pro bono contributions.
“I think that it makes you feel good to do something that helps people,” says Susman. The Houston lawyer notes that helping his paying clients, many of whom he describes as victims and “underdogs,” also generates those good feelings.
Locke Lord partner Elizabeth Mack of Dallas, chairwoman of the firm's environmental section, says Texas Appleseed is recognizing Locke Lord's contribution to a research project involving prosecutors' criminal-discovery practices that prompted the Texas Legislature to pass reforms, known as the Michael Morton Act. The act was named after a man convicted of murdering his wife but later exonerated by DNA evidence.The reforms, signed into law last May, require prosecutors to open their files to defense lawyers and keep records of disclosed evidence.
Mack, who serves on the board of Texas Appleseed, says she jumped at the opportunity to help with the research when the nonprofit sought help. She notes that says some 42 Locke Lord lawyers nationwide "from all practice areas" worked more than one year to help produce the research.
For his part, Susman says his firm partners, rather than its associates, usually are the ones doing the pro bono work “so it’s coming out of his [or her] earning power.”
The willingness of partners to take that kind of opportunity cost to handle pro bono matters sends a message and sets an example for the associates, Susman says. He recently agreed to handle a voting rights case for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
“We intend to do more pro bono than we’ve done before,” Susman says.