by Michelle Alden
At more than 125 lawyers strong, Jones Day Dallas has delivered award-winning client service in litigation and a in a full range of global and local transactions for more than 35 years. The attorneys of Jones Day also pride themselves on supporting the community in which they live and work.
This desire to give back to the Dallas community led the firm to step up as this year’s lead sponsor and generously contribute $35,000 to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign. The firm has a long and distinguished history of contributing to the Campaign. Including this gift, the firm has donated more than $193,000 to legal aid for the poor since 1995. The Equal Access to Justice Campaign is the annual fundraising campaign which supports the activities of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). The firm’s gift makes it possible for DVAP to continue to provide legal aid to the poor in Dallas, keeping the doors to the courthouse and our overall justice system open to many more people in our community. Since 1982, DVAP has provided, recruited, and trained pro bono lawyers to provide free legal aid to the poor in Dallas. Last year, a 15 member staff supported over 3,000 volunteers in their efforts to volunteer at legal clinics and advise and represent clients.
The diversity of Jones Day’s pro bono efforts is truly impressive. “In Dallas, our pro bono commitments range from the representation of unaccompanied children immigrating from Central America, to veterans seeking disability benefits, to providing critical services to non-profit organizations. We are also committed to financially supporting the efforts of organizations that work to increase pro bono legal services to the poor. This year, Jones Day is proud to be the lead sponsor for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program’s 2018 Equal Access to Justice Campaign,” said Hilda Galvan, Partner-in-Charge of the Dallas office.
In 2016, Jones Day attorneys, along with co-counsel, including attorneys from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, won a high-profile access-to-justice case in the Supreme Court of Texas. The Court upheld that Rule 145 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure does indeed protect indigent litigants from having to pay court costs. This decision has wide-reaching benefits for indigent litigants statewide. Jones Day has also been active with DVAP for many years—with their attorneys accepting divorce and custody cases, interviewing applicants at the South Dallas Clinic, and participating in DVAP’s Lend-a-Lawyer program for several years, which involved loaning an associate to DVAP for three months to work exclusively on pro bono cases. In fact, Jones Day was named DVAP’s 2013 Law Firm of the Year for their extraordinary pro bono service.
The value of pro bono work lies not only in helping low-income people access the courts, but also by providing an unparalleled training opportunity for young lawyers to learn their craft. In addition, the gratitude of the pro bono clients is a welcome benefit.
Dan O’Brien served as the Jones Day Lend-a-Lawyer to DVAP in 2010. Dan found the work “very rewarding.” When he achieved a good outcome for a client, he “instantly saw the gratification on the client’s face.” And often the smile was the result of a simple call or letter, the work did not have to be complex to be important and meaningful. By the end, he said that the Lend-a-Lawyer program allowed him to “help someone in need” while also “helping [himself] grow as a lawyer and as a person.”
Many volunteers can attest to similar pro bono experiences, which is why DVAP’s tagline, “pro bono: it’s like billable hours for your soul,” resonates with so many attorneys, paralegals, law students, judges, clerks, and others who donate their time.
The commitment of Dallas attorneys and the DBA to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign is impressive. Since 1997, the DBA and Legal Aid have joined forces to raise money for the program, with Dallas lawyers donating almost $13 million.
DVAP is a joint pro bono program of the DBA and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program is the only one of its kind in Texas and brings together the volunteer resources of a major metropolitan bar association with the legal aid expertise of the largest and oldest civil legal aid program in North Texas. For more information, or to donate, visit www.dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.
Michelle Alden is the Director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. She can be reached at email@example.com.