Dallas Bar Association

Dallas Lawyers Donate $750,000+ to Equal Access to Justice Campaign

by Alicia E. Hernandez

The generosity of Dallas lawyers to the annual Equal Access to Justice Campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program has continued to blossom despite difficult economic times. Through the hard work and dedication of Campaign Co-Chairs Rob Crain, a partner at Crain Lewis LLP, and Brad Weber, a partner at Locke Lord LLP, the campaign raised more than ever before—over $750,000—which will be used in 2012 to provide legal aid to the poor.

The Dallas Bar Association honored campaign donors and their efforts at making equal access to justice a reality at the inaugural of Paul K. Stafford, the 103rd President of the Dallas Bar Association, on January 21. A common theme for the campaign’s major donors is their desire to help people and keep access to justice alive.

Champions of Justice Lisa Blue Baron and Mike Kaeske donated at the $50,000 level. Ms. Blue Baron, a long-time supporter of pro bono legal aid to the poor, has donated over $293,000 to DVAP over nearly 20 years. Ms. Blue Baron is also a volunteer for DVAP. Mr. Kaeske’s generous gift extends his passion for helping plaintiffs with their legal problems to legal aid clients. His goal is to make a positive difference in their lives.

Campaign Co-Chair Rob Crain and his partner Chris Lewis, of Crain Lewis, L.L.P., are major donors at the President’s Council level, donating $30,000 to the campaign. Mr. Crain, a personal injury lawyer, and Mr. Lewis, a criminal defense lawyer, feel that supporting legal aid to the poor is “the best thing we do as a collective group of lawyers.”

The Payne Mitchell Law Group and the Honorable Deborah G. Hankinson both donated $25,000 to this year’s campaign. Over the last four years, Andrew Payne and Jim Mitchell have donated over $76,000 to Equal Access to Justice and have supported other fundraising efforts for DVAP. Justice Hankinson, who has donated $165,000 to the campaign since 2003, is also a tireless national and statewide advocate for legal aid to the poor.  

Locke Lord LLP raised the bar for donations from large Dallas law firms with its donation of $15,000 to Equal Access to Justice. Locke Lord has donated $95,400 to the campaign since 1998. The firm has been active in pro bono since the 1980s. In 2011, they received the Bronze Award for Pro Bono service, and Locke Lord lawyers regularly represent DVAP clients and volunteer at DVAP’s legal clinics.

The law firm of Slack & Davis, L.L.P., a new donor to the annual Campaign, contributed at the $15,000 level. The firm’s donation pushed the campaign over the $750,000 goal, helping it reach a new high in the history of the campaign. Ladd Sanger and Paula Sweeney, who represent Slack & Davis’ Dallas office, are “glad to help this important program and continue the firm’s tradition of serving the community.”

AT&T continued its support of DVAP with its $15,000 gift to the Campaign. Over the last four years, AT&T has donated $50,000 to Equal Access to Justice. AT&T’s legal department also continues to set the bar for corporate pro bono work in Dallas. They are increasingly active in pro bono, hosting pro bono CLE programs for its attorneys, working on pro bono projects with other firms, and representing pro bono clients.

 The generosity of Dallas lawyers continues with $10,000 donations to the Campaign from Andrews Kurth LLP, Baker Botts, L.L.P., Brown McCarroll L.L.P., D Magazine, Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary Foundation, Jones Day, Koons Fuller, Mike McKool, Jr., Patton Boggs LLP, Shore Chan Bragalone DePumpo LLP, andVinson & Elkins.

The success of the annual campaign would not be possible without dedicated volunteers who have donated their time and fundraising expertise to help DVAP continue to serve the poor.

This year’s Campaign Committee, led by Rob Crain and Brad Weber, includes Jerry Alexander, Kim Askew, DBA President-ElectSally Crawford, Melinda Eitzen, Michael Forshey, Dawn Fowler, Beverly B. Godbey, Michael Hurst, Christina McCracken, Greg Sampson, Immediate PresidentBarry Sorrels, DBA PresidentPaul Stafford, Lindsay Stengle, Diane Sumoski, andPast PresidentIke Vanden Eykel.

“The generosity of Dallas lawyers has been outstanding,” says DBA President Paul K. Stafford. “And this generosity comes at a time when things are looking pretty bleak for legal aid programs locally and across the country. Dallas lawyers are truly setting the example for attorneys here and beyond. We are standing behind our justice system when we support legal aid to the poor.”

And the support comes at a time when it is needed more than ever. Over the last several years, economic turmoil, significant reductions in grants based on Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts, and, most recently, Congress’ substantial reductions in funding for legal services to the poor, have plagued the legal aid community. With the support of Dallas attorneys, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, a joint program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, will continue to help several thousand clients this year.

In 2012, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program wants to raise the bar on the number of people it can help. To help the program succeed in this challenge, it needs more Dallas lawyers of all levels of experience to volunteer. The benefits are many—free CLE training, mentoring from top Dallas attorneys, opportunities to get courtroom experience and develop new skills, or simply the opportunity to help someone in need doing what only lawyers can do, providing legal help. To learn more about the program and volunteer, contact Alicia Hernandez at ahernandez@dallasbar.org.

Alicia Hernandez is the Director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA Director of Community Services. She can be reached at ahernandez@dallasbar.org.

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