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Baker Botts Proud of its Pro Bono and Public Service

© 2018 The Texas Lawbook.

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By Baker Botts Partner Keri Brown

(Aug. 7) – On August 25, 2017, thousands of Texans were temporarily evacuated to shelters because of the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding. The Red Cross set up shelters throughout Harris County, including at the George R. Brown Convention Center, NRG Park, and, briefly, Toyota Center and Lakewood Church.

Keri Brown

With the influx of hurricane survivors came an influx of legal issues—everything from lost documents to landlord/tenant issues to immediate needs for food stamps. Baker Botts led the private bar’s pro bono response to Hurricane Harvey.

As part of its commitment to the community, Baker Botts lawyers worked more than a thousand hours on pro bono matters and donated thousands of dollars in supplies to shelters.

Several major organizations, including the Harris Co. Bar Association and the Houston Bench-Bar, have recognized the Houston-based corporate law for its public service commitments.

For example:

• Baker Botts lawyers dedicated 1,131 hours to pro bono Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017.

• The firm’s largest project was staffing the legal aid booths at the shelters. Baker Botts coordinated with Lone Star Legal Aid to put lawyers in the shelters after the storms. Our lawyers filled one-third of those shifts and recruited lawyers from other firms to fill the remaining shifts.

• We have taken nine FEMA appeals cases through Lone Star Legal Aid, and we have represented clients in Harvey-related landlord/tenant disputes.

• We assisted a religious organization in filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit challenging FEMA’s refusal to provide public assistance grants to houses of worship on the same terms as other non-profit organizations. FEMA’s 20-year old rule was rescinded.

• The firm donated over $10,000 supplies for use at the shelters, and coordinated with other firms to help meet the need for supplies.

• We provided loaner laptops to volunteers at the legal aid booths at the shelters.

• We hosted a Hurricane Harvey edition of LegalLine (a phone bank to answer legal questions, sponsored by the Houston Bar Association) on September 7, 2017. Seventy of our own lawyers, along with 20 lawyers from our clients’ in-house counsel, received 175 calls and assisted with 300 distinct legal issues.

• We hosted a free CLE on September 8, with 150+ in-person participants and 550+ webinar participants. Lone Star Legal Aid led the training, providing much needed information about FEMA, flood insurance and dealing with the disaster. Lone Star Legal Aid, the Houston Bar Association and Houston Volunteer Lawyers co-sponsored.

• We produced two guides in response to Hurricane Harvey: the Harvey Crisis Response Guide (geared toward the public and published in English and Spanish) and the LegalLine FAQ (geared toward lawyers helping the public). Many clients used these guides for their employees and families.

• Our pro bono efforts have been featured in at least six publications: The Wall Street Journal, the ABA Journal, Texas Lawyer, The Texas Lawbook, the Texas Bar Journal and The Houston Lawyer.

• UPCOMING: On August 18, 2018, we are staffing one of four HBA legal clinics on this day to mark the one-year anniversary of Harvey.

Baker Botts has received several professional honors recognizing the work it has done regarding Hurricane Harvey. Some of those awards include:

• Harris County Bench Bar Award (Large Firm) – Baker Botts

• Becket Fund for Religious Liberty 2018 Legal Service Award – Baker Botts (Litigation partner Mike Bennett led this work)

• HBA President’s Award – Litigation partner, Louie Layrisson, for work on the LegalLine Committee

• State Bar of Texas 2018 Pro Bono Coordinator Award – Tax partner, Keri Brown

• Houston Bar Foundation award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to the Houston Bar Association Houston Volunteer Lawyers – Tax partner, Keri Brown

Keri Brown is a partner at Baker Botts who represents some of the nation’s most prominent individuals on complex federal estate, gift and income tax litigation and controversy matters, including disputes and litigation with the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service. She also chairs the firm’s Houston Pro Bono Committee Chair and was recently recognized as one of Houston’s “40 Under 40” by the Houston Business Journal.

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