by Alicia Hernandez
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” said Aubrey Connatser. “I tell my daughter this every day, and now, she is finishing the sentence for me.”
Aubrey Connatser and the Connatser Law Firm are the lead donors for the 2016 Equal Access to Justice Campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. Their donation of $30,000 will help the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, a joint pro bono program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, provide legal help to low-income clients in the Dallas area.
A family lawyer, wife, mother, daughter, pro bono lawyer, and donor, Aubrey is a person who believes in small, and big, acts of kindness.
Aubrey, a Dallas attorney specializing in family law, graduated from UT Law School in 2001 and has practiced in Dallas ever since. She opened her own law firm, Connatser Family Law, in 2013.
Aubrey has a long history of giving back. “My parents encouraged community service, and my school, Episcopal School of Dallas, had a 100-hour community service requirement,” said Aubrey. She first became interested in family law issues while volunteering for the Children’s Advocacy Center during her college and law school days at the University of Texas. The Child Advocacy Center “gave me a window into abuse and how it affects a household,” she said. This interest led Aubrey to volunteer work in the Domestic Violence Clinic at UT Law School, prosecuting protective orders through the program in Judge Mike Denton’s court in Travis County, Texas. “This is when I realized I wanted to do family law, and there is just this immense need that people have for family lawyers. It is really important stuff.”
Aubrey’s law partner, Mike DeBruin, has known Aubrey for 15 years. She is a “consistent, smart, quick, empathetic, and passionate person with good common sense,” he said. “She is a giver. She does the right thing, and in doing so, teaches others to do the right thing.”
Many pro bono volunteers have one client that gets them hooked on pro bono. Aubrey’s client was a teenage mom with three children whom she represented while working at the law school clinic. Her client was already divorced from an abusive man who was also the father of her three children. She remarried and ended up at the clinic needing a protective order and divorce from the second husband because he was sexually abusing her children. “She was desperate to get away from him,” said Aubrey.
Aubrey took on the case and represented her client throughout her third year in law school. It opened her eyes to the importance of making sure legal representation is available to the poor. It was more than just making sure they have their day in court—Aubrey’s help and the legal system had a real impact on their lives and their safety.
“Through this case, I realized the acute need for legal aid and how economic control often forces victims to stay,” said Aubrey. “My client was financially dependent on her second husband. She was going to school at night and working all day to get ahead, but she could barely afford groceries, much less a lawyer.”
While Aubrey spent most of her third year in law school representing her domestic violence client, she is quick to point out that there are many straightforward ways that lawyers can help. “Some clients just need simple things done like help transferring the title to a deed after a divorce. It’s easy for lawyers, and it doesn’t seem like much, but to see the immense relief and joy on our clients faces is powerful.”
This underscores Aubrey’s point—even small acts of kindness make a tremendous difference in people’s lives. “We are so blessed,” said Aubrey of the legal profession. “We have the chance to make a huge impact on someone’s life by doing things that, to us, are really simple, but help others with things that are insurmountable for them.”
Aubrey believes in kindness. And oftentimes what may be small to you means the world to another. Any act of kindness can go a long, long way.
To learn more about the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the Equal Access to Justice Campaign, contact Alicia Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at email@example.com.