Pro Bono Ensures Access to Justice

Headshot of Trey Apffel

The old adage that “to whom much is given, much is required” has been embedded in the culture of the legal profession for years. It is an essential part of our legal system and helps to ensure that, in Texas, we move closer to the goal of equal access to justice for all.

Each year, many Texas lawyers dedicate their time, talent, and/or treasure to the underserved. Through the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Opportunity Portal (app.joinpaladin.com/pbtx), Texas lawyers can find statewide legal aid and pro bono partners with a range of practice and service areas. Additionally, the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Workgroup, chaired by former State Bar of Texas Presidents Terry Tottenham and Roland Johnson, recently created a Pro Bono Resource Guide (texasbar.com/probonoguide). The guide provides free legal information and resources to assist Texas attorneys providing pro bono services. The guide explains the justice gap, addresses common pro bono myths, and answers some frequently asked questions regarding pro bono work.

In addition to active members of the State Bar in good standing, inactive and emeritus members of the bar and out-of-state licensed attorneys residing in Texas can also provide legal services in Texas through the New Opportunities Volunteer Attorney (NOVA) Pro Bono Program (texasbar.com/NOVA). Under certain conditions, law students and legal advocates including paralegals, interpreters, and court reporters are also able to provide pro bono services.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and various natural disasters escalating the challenges faced by underserved members of our community, including some of our military members, I am particularly proud of our work as a member of the Texas Coordinating Council for Veterans Services and as the administrator of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans program (texasbar.com/veterans). TLTV is a collaborative effort with local bar associations, legal aid organizations, and veterans service providers to host legal advice clinics for veterans throughout the state. TLTV was modeled after a program started by the Houston Bar Association in 2008.

Finally, Pro Bono Texas (probonotexas.org) is a website exclusively developed and administered by the State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division for pro bono attorneys. It is your one-stop shop for all your pro bono needs. Iron sharpens iron so, through Pro Bono Texas, you can connect with mentors, find volunteer opportunities, and review resources to support your efforts.

The State Bar’s aspirational goal is that each Texas attorney would provide 50 hours of pro bono legal services to the poor each year, and we are grateful that so many attorneys routinely meet and even exceed this goal. Still, the need is great. According to the Legal Services Corporation’s Justice Gap report, low-income Americans who qualify for legal aid did not receive any or enough legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems in 2021.

Please consider adding pro bono work to your annual calendar. The hours you serve can make a lasting difference in someone else’s life … and yours.


TREY APFFEL Executive Director, State Bar of Texas Editor in Chief, Texas Bar Journal Trey Apffel can be reached at 512-427-1500, trey.apffel@texasbar.com or @ApffelT on Twitter.

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