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July 18, 2016
Contact: Amy Starnes
Public Information Director, State Bar of Texas
(800) 204-2222, ext. 1706, or (512) 427-1706


Bar leaders, associations recognized for improving legal assistance to low-income Texans

HOUSTON—Bar associations from around the state were honored for their commitment to access to justice issues during the State Bar of Texas 2016 Bar Leaders Conference July 15 and 16 in Houston.

State Bar of Texas President Frank Stevenson presented the Pro Bono Service and Deborah G. Hankinson awards on behalf of the Texas Access to Justice Commission on July 16 at the Westin Galleria. Photos of the award recipients are available upon request. Contact Amy Starnes at

The Pro Bono Service Award recognizes State Bar sections and local bar associations that have created self-sustaining pro bono projects that motivate lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance to low-income Texans. Sections and local bar organizations are categorized according to membership size—small, medium, and large—and compete against similarly sized groups. 

The 2016 Pro Bono Service Award winners received a certificate of recognition and a $1,000 check to invest in the winning program. Winners include:

Small Sections or Bars (fewer than 500 members)
The State Bar of Texas Collaborative Law Section and Collaborative Divorce Texas in recognition of their Collaborative Law Pro Bono Project, a joint effort to make the collaborative law process available to low-income clients in need of dispute resolution.

Medium Sections or Bars (501 to 2,000 members)
The El Paso Bar Association in recognition of its Access to Justice Legal Fair and its El Paso Lawyers for Patriots Legal Clinic. The Legal Fair invites all agencies that provide legal services and information to participate in a fair environment to offer one-on-one consultations to individuals with civil legal needs. The Patriots Legal Clinic offers presentations on veterans’ issues and pro bono legal consultations for veterans and active-duty military personnel.

Large Sections or Bars (more than 2,000 members)
The Austin Bar Association in recognition of its Self-Represented Litigant Project. The bar created the project as the result of a judicial mandate that all self-represented litigants in the uncontested docket go to the Travis County Law Library and Self-Help Center to receive assistance before appearing in court. Since the mandate an average of 600 people per month have visited the Self-Help Center. To assist with the increased traffic, two or three volunteer attorneys assist with questions and help fill out forms each weekday morning.

The Deborah G. Hankinson Award honors bar associations and young lawyer affiliates that demonstrate a commitment to access to justice by creating initiatives that increase access to legal aid services, increase awareness of access to justice issues, or raise funds for legal aid providers on a local and statewide basis.

The 2016 Hankinson Award winners are as follows:

Division I (fewer than 500 members)
The Smith County Bar Association for its access to justice efforts, including that more than 100 of its members have volunteered to assist pro bono clients. The association contracts with a volunteer coordinator who manages more than 35 active pro bono cases each month.

Division II (501 to 900 members)
The El Paso Bar Association for its Patriots Free Legal Clinic and ATJ Legal Fair, among other efforts. The association’s goal is to serve as an umbrella organization within the El Paso legal community to promote growth, development, and cohesion among area lawyers.

Division III (901 to 5,000 members)
The Dallas Bar Association for its Campaign for Equal Access to Justice, which raised $1,025,309 in 2015-2016. Proceeds benefit the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, the association’s low-income legal services program.

Young Lawyer Affiliate
The Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association for conducting an inaugural challenge of performing a total of 1,000 pro bono hours through partnering with area organizations such as Baylor Law School and Mission Waco Legal Services. The volunteer young lawyers shattered the goal, recording 2,269 pro bono assistance hours.

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The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil and legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, please visit

The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system. For more information, follow us on Twitter and Instagram @statebaroftexas, like us on Facebook at, or visit

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