A new State Bar of Texas member benefit for peace of mind.
By Chris Ritter
The anniversary of Hurricane Harvey reminds us that we are just one
unexpected event away from devastation. So many of us have experienced
seeing a colleague or family member face the tragedy of a natural
disaster, a battle with cancer, or a serious injury from an accident. So
often, there is not enough support for lawyers and their families when
these circumstances arise.
That is why the State Bar of Texas is launching a new member benefit: the SOLACE program. Support of Lawyers/Legal Personnel—All Concern Encouraged, or SOLACE, is an initiative designed to assist attorneys or their families when catastrophic events or health situations take place.
SOLACE began in Louisiana in 2002 as a result of the efforts of Judge Jay Zainey, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Mark C. Suprenant, a New Orleans attorney. After Suprenant’s wife faced some difficult times, Zainey and Suprenant saw the need for a network of support among the legal community. Thanks to the leadership of these and other attorneys from many states, there are now more than 20 SOLACE programs in the United States.
The SOLACE program connects lawyers that are experiencing an extreme hardship with those willing and able to help. The program does not solicit money, but it encourages assistance by the direct service of fellow attorneys or their charitable donation of needed items or equipment. For example, a SOLACE request from Louisiana recently involved an attorney needing a rollaway bed so that his family could use it to be present around the clock during a parent’s last days on hospice care. Thanks to the support of attorneys participating in the SOLACE program, this need was met by an attorney who happened to have an available rollaway bed.
Other examples of SOLACE support include securing a medical evacuation airlift from a foreign country, donating furniture to a solo practitioner whose office was consumed by a fire, contributing frequent flyer miles or hotel points for families who cannot afford the travel costs associated with a surgery, and volunteering to care for the dog of an individual who was away from home while receiving cancer treatment.
The way the program will work in Texas is that attorneys who suffer a catastrophic event, personally or in their family, may submit a request to the SOLACE program by filling out a short form at texasbar.com/SOLACE. The SOLACE team will then review the request and, if the need fits within the parameters of the program, it will send an email with the pertinent information to all attorneys in the area who are participating in the SOLACE program where the need exists. Those who can help reply to the email and are then linked to the person in need. Those wishing to participate as volunteers in the SOLACE program are encouraged to “opt-in” by signing up at texasbar.com/SOLACE.
SOLACE is a program that will help countless attorneys and their families when they have no other place to turn. TBJ
is the director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program.