by Alicia Hernandez
What do you get when you mix a future bar President, a criminal defense lawyer with over 200 jury trials, and a 25 year personal injury trial attorney? The law firm of Crain Lewis Brogdon, complete with its impressive trial, personal injury, and criminal defense practices as well as its commitment to the Dallas community and improving the lives of citizens of our state.
And, with this, you get Crain Lewis Brogdon, the kick off donor to the 2017 Equal Access to Justice Campaign. With their $30,000 gift to this year’s campaign, benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, the firm has donated more than $130,000 to legal aid for the poor since 2004.
The firm’s gift makes it possible for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) to continue to provide and enhance legal aid to the poor in Dallas, keeping the doors to the court and our overall justice system open to many more people in our community.
Crain Lewis Brogdon’s commitment to access to justice is impressive and falls in line with Dallas’s longstanding and ever-growing commitment to narrowing the justice gap. Since 1982, DVAP has provided, recruited, trained, etc. pro bono lawyers to provide free legal aid to the poor in Dallas. Last year, a 15 member staff supported over 3,000 volunteers in their efforts to volunteer at legal clinics and advise and represent clients. Volunteers represented nearly 2,600 clients and donated over 23,600 hours in pro bono service in family (including child support, enforcement of visitation, grandparent rights, and child custody issues), consumer, housing, landlord tenant, expunctions, elder law, veterans issues, and more.
In addition, the commitment of Dallas attorneys and the Dallas Bar Association (DBA) to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign is impressive. Since 1997, the DBA and Legal Aid have joined forces to raise money for the program; with Dallas lawyers donating almost $11 million.
“We have always said, please give money or your time, or give both,” said Rob Crain, named partner in the law firm of Crain Lewis Brogdon, President-Elect of the DBA, and a recognized plaintiff’s attorney. “Lawyers in Dallas are doing that, and our participation is increasing annually. Dallas lawyers are leaders nationally, statewide, and locally in what we are doing with pro bono in Dallas. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot more work to do to narrow the justice gap.”
The justice gap is incredible. In a country based on justice for all and access to our court system, over 25 percent of Dallas County residents live near the poverty level, and 42 percent have little chance of being able to afford an attorney. With annual poverty incomes of $30,375 for a family of four, justice is a luxury for low and moderate income families.
Crain’s law partner of nearly a decade, Chris Lewis, understands the importance of access to justice through his daily work as a criminal justice attorney. “The Sixth Amendment provides for assistance of counsel in criminal defense cases, but there is no similar protection for civil matters,” said Mr. Lewis. “Without programs like DVAP, people are left to their own devices, representing themselves, and lack of access to justice can be devastating.”
Quentin Brogdon, an attorney board certified in personal injury and civil trial advocacy, understands the importance of effective counsel, having represented hundreds of clients in complex matters over the years. “My clients are just regular, hard-working people who have experienced personal injury tragedies in their lives. Their lives are forever changed, and our representation helps them start over. But, there is not a process similar to the one in personal injury cases for DVAP clients. It is help from pro bono attorneys or nothing at all.”
“Our bar leaders for years have said this is the most important thing we do—increasing access to our justice system,” said Mr. Crain. “We are proud and really honored to be a part of it.”
The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is a joint pro bono program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program is the only one of its kind in Texas and brings together the volunteer resources of a major metropolitan bar association with the legal aid expertise of the largest and oldest civil legal aid program in North Texas. For more information, or to donate, visit www.dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.
Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.