PRO BONO SPOTLIGHT JANUARY 2022
The Pro Bono Spotlight features attorneys chosen by the Texas Access to Justice Commission or the State Bar of Texas for their exceptional commitment to pro bono work. Find pro bono opportunities, support, and inspiration at probonotexas.org. Opinions expressed on the Texas Bar Blog and in the Texas Bar Journal are solely those of the authors. Have an opinion to share? Email us your letters to the editor or articles for consideration at firstname.lastname@example.org. View our submission guidelines at texasbar.com/submissions.
Interview by Adam Faderewski
Photo courtesy of Jessica Smith
Portions of this Q&A were originally published on the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program website and have been edited and reprinted with permission.
Tu Nguyen is a solo practitioner in Dallas. After a brief pause from the law after law school, to focus on family and a family business, she volunteered with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, to give back to her community.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been providing pro bono legal services since 2017, when I was first licensed. I provide pro bono legal services to low-income clients in the Dallas community in the areas of family, housing, expunctions and nondisclosures, name change, probate, and wills.
Why is pro bono important to you?
My family was part of what is referred to as the “boat people,” the Vietnamese refugees who started arriving in America around 1980 after the Vietnam War. We arrived in America with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It was through the kindness of volunteers that my family was able to survive. When we needed legal services, the legal aid office provided volunteer attorneys who worked tirelessly to help us. Although I was very young, I still remember the impact it had on my family. Now I am in a position to give back and complete the circle of kindness.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Lots of people readily make time to offer guidance when they learn you are handling a case pro bono. Those opportunities for growth are invaluable to a solo attorney managing her legal practice on her own. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve met wonderfully talented and incredibly smart attorneys who have graciously answered a lot of my “dumb” questions.
What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono work provides valuable perspectives. As attorneys, access to the legal system is pretty routine. However, for various reasons there are vast swaths of society that do not have access to the legal system. You would be providing a lot of relief to these communities.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
It was an estate planning case involving an elderly woman. The referral was actually for the standard will and power of attorney documents. Once we met and started talking, I realized she had some assets that needed management. As I listened to her concerns, I realized there was much more I could do to help ease her mind. She was concerned about what would happen to her estate and, more importantly, how she could continue to help her family and goddaughter even after her death. It was very rewarding to see her whole demeanor change after we finished everything. Without DVAP, she would have missed out on strategic ways to protect her assets and continue her wishes after death.TBJ