by Michelle Alden
Mike Myers is the owner and Chairman of Myers Financial Corporation and the Chairman and CEO of Myers Bancshares, Inc. He prides himself on supporting the community in which he lives and works. His mother was his original inspiration to give back. “She mirrored the joy that comes from helping others,” Myers said, as his mother devoted countless hours to teaching a young married women’s Sunday school class for 40 years. He started his philanthropic efforts early in life, establishing a foundation at the age of 29. For over 50 years, he has consistently made significant contributions to various charitable causes.
This desire to give back to the Dallas community led him to generously contribute $30,500 to this year’s Equal Access to Justice Campaign. The Equal Access to Justice Campaign is the annual fundraising campaign which supports the activities of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). Myers’ 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, advise, and represent clients.
Myers also started his business endeavors early, by working his way through college and law school as a student who started a catering service, opened a hamburger restaurant, and found success as a Bible salesman. Although he is not a practicing attorney, he earned a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and believes that having a law degree has been very useful in the business world. After dabbling in politics, he made his fortune in real estate and banking, owning and operating restaurants, country clubs, banks, and residential community developments. His success in business has allowed him to make a substantial impact as a philanthropist in areas ranging from education to healthcare.
“Giving back is about so much more than money or buildings,” Myers said. “It is about creating an example that you hope your children and grandchildren—even people you do not know—will follow. It is a commitment to make life better for others.”
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.
“I have made it a priority in my life to always give ‘a hand up’ whenever I am able, Myers stated. “Equal access to justice gives those people who are at a financial disadvantage the legal help they need . . . help they would otherwise not be able to obtain on their own.”
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.
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 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.