Pro bono services exist because people cannot always afford the help they need. It’s not fair that the poor are so disproportionately affected by our broken legal system. According to the Texas Access to Justice Commission, nearly 80 percent of those who qualify for programs relating to civil legal services do not get help. Public defenders don’t always do the job.
Did you know that about 2.5 million hours of pro bono time are logged in Texas every year? There are benefits for lawyers who give up their time, but most who do so admit that they feel good about it. That leaves the question: how does someone find a pro bono attorney?
The best way to find out if a lawyer volunteers to work pro bono is to ask. A Houston criminal defense lawyer who asked to remain anonymous said, “We always like to help out when someone can’t afford our services, but at the same time — we like to be paid. We can’t volunteer all our time. We’d never pay off our education, were that the case. Sad, but true. But I like when people show the initiative to pitch their own case and why I should take it pro bono before I make that pitch better for the judge or jury.”
There are even pro bono services available to refugees seeking asylum at the southern border with Mexico. This is necessary because President Trump has attempted to amend regulations to ban most of the refugees from coming into the country.
A number of organizations devoted to providing legal aid and humanitarian services at the border include: the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR), the Border Network for Human Rights, the Hope Border Institute, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Al Otro Lado, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.
The services aren’t only available for the sake of the refugees — they’re also available for the sake of people who are ignorant of the historical context of the situation at the border. Most of these organizations have made it a priority to shed light on what is really happening in places like El Paso so that the Trump administration cannot continue to sweep it under the rug. The sharing of information is crucial to this fight.
Additional information about pro bono services available to Texas citizens can be found by contacting the State Bar of Texas at 1-800-204-2222.