by Michelle Alden
Hartline Dacus Barger Dreyer LLP (HDBD) has been serving clients since 1994, with offices in Dallas, Corpus Christi, and Houston. Beyond their work in product liability litigation and a broad spectrum of practice areas—from personal injury defense, commercial litigation and toxic torts to warranty and deceptive trade practice litigation—the lawyers pride themselves on supporting the communities in which they live and work in. This desire to give back to the Dallas community led the firm to generously contribute $30,500 to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign. The firm has a long and distinguished history of contributing to the Campaign. Including this gift, the firm has donated more than $63,000 to legal aid for the poor since 2007. The Equal Access to Justice Campaign is the annual fundraising campaign which supports the activities of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). The firm’s gift makes it possible for DVAP to continue to provide and enhance legal aid to the poor in Dallas, keeping the doors to the courthouse and our overall justice system open to many more people in our community. Since 1982, DVAP has provided, recruited, and trained 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.
As HDBD became busier in the past several years, the partners created a Charitable Giving Committee to offer resources where it can. The committee spearheads firm initiatives which focus on pro bono, giving to organizations that their attorneys, employees, and families hold close to their hearts, and recently, funneling resources into Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The committee is comprised of a representative partner from each office, as well as the firm’s managing partner—Brian Rawson (Dallas), Peter Blomquist (Houston), Ann Hennis (Corpus Christi), and Jeff Patterson (Dallas).
Brian Rawson sums up the firm’s philosophy regarding pro bono and contributing to the EAJ Campaign, “HDBD primarily represents major corporations. But we know that the heart of our justice system is that it promises access—not just to our clients—but also to those who do not have the resources we do. Our gift, we hope, helps fulfill that promise.”
The problem of access to justice in Dallas County is one that DVAP works to correct every day. 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 slim hope of being able to afford an attorney. With annual poverty incomes of $30,750 for a family of four, justice is a luxury for low and moderate income families.
“We believe in the mission of Equal Access to Justice and are proud to support the lawyers who work with DVAP. In the last several years, HDBD lawyers have had little time to give; we can, however, support EAJ by giving money. We appreciate the leadership of Crain Lewis and Payne Mitchell, and encourage other firms to give as well,” added managing partner Jeff Patterson.
The value of pro bono work lies not only in helping low-income people access the courts, but it also provides an unparalleled training opportunity for young lawyers to learn their craft. In addition, the gratitude of the pro bono clients is a welcome benefit.
Jeff Patterson reminisced, “As a young lawyer, I was influenced by Judge Merrill Hartman, a champion of pro bono. I handled dozens of pro bono matters, and tried several pro bono cases. These are experiences that were valuable to me personally, to my clients, and that I remember twenty years later.”
Many volunteers can attest to similar pro bono experiences, which is why DVAP’s tagline, “pro bono: it’s like billable hours for your soul,” resonates with so many attorneys, paralegals, law students, judges, clerks, and others who donate their time.
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 $12 million. DVAP is pleased to announce that Sandra Phillips Rogers, General Counsel of Toyota, is serving as the Honorary Chair for this year’s Campaign.
DVAP is a joint pro bono program of the DBA 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.
Michelle Alden is the Director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. She can be reached at email@example.com.