In this week’s edition of P.S., we have details on a recent pro bono wills clinic in San Antonio sponsored by Dykema, USAA and St. Mary’s School of Law; the newest bank to join the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s Prime Partner Program; a federal magistrate judge who Baylor Law School recently named as its 2023 Young Lawyer of the Year; an upcoming free tour of a nonprofit substance abuse recovery center for women that has deep ties to the Dallas legal community; and a new partnership between SMU Dedman School of Law and a local nonprofit that seeks to help expedite the criminal charge decision process in the Dallas County district attorney’s office.
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The Latest Charitable Happenings
— Nearly 20 lawyers from Dykema’s San Antonio office and Dykema client USAA recently teamed up to volunteer pro bono legal services at a wills clinic hosted at St. Mary’s School of Law. Dykema and USAA served as the July co-sponsors of the clinic, put on by the San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA). Dykema, USAA and SALSA helped 19 families on various estate planning issues — beyond providing wills, the wills clinic also assists clients with medical power of attorney (POA) forms, statutory durable POAs, declarations of guardianship, HIPAA releases and advance directives to qualifying clients seeking estate planning documents.
Each family received assistance from a volunteer attorney, a volunteer notary and a volunteer law student. Many of the clients got connected to SALSA through Habitat for Humanity. Dykema also brought its three San Antonio office summer associates to provide assistance at the clinic.
— Baylor University School of Law recently honored Hon. Christine Nowak as its 2023 Young Baylor Lawyer of the Year. Nowak, a federal magistrate judge in the Sherman division of the Eastern District of Texas, was announced as the honoree during the State Bar of Texas annual meeting. Created in 1995, the Young Baylor Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes an alum under 45 who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law and the legal profession. Judge Nowak was appointed to the bench in 2015 after working at Dykema, where she practiced commercial litigation and served as the hiring partner of the Dallas office. During law school, Nowak served as associate editor of the Baylor Law Review, participated in several mock trial teams, was a member of the Order of the Barristers and earned a full academic scholarship.
“I have followed Judge Nowak’s career and she is, by any measure, a standout, both personally and professionally,” Baylor Dean Emeritus Brad Toben said in a statement. “At the time of her investiture as a federal judge, I predicted that just as she had already proven herself as an exceptional lawyer in practice, she would prove to be a respected and admired steward of our justice system through her service in the judiciary and would be a credit to Baylor Law School through her service. She has done exactly that.”
— The Texas Access to Justice Foundation announced that Cendera Bank is the newest bank to join the foundation’s Prime Partner program, which helps provide funding for legal aid services to more than 100,000 Texans per year. Members of the Prime Partner program voluntarily pay higher interest rates for Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, which are a funding source for civil legal aid. Prime Partner financial institutions pay 75 percent of the federal funds target rate on IOLTA accounts.
“When faced with evictions, domestic violence situations and other economic hardships that require legal assistance to navigate, many Texans do not always have the financial resources to hire a lawyer,” said TAJF board chair Deborah Hankinson. “The Prime Partner program is vital in helping the Foundation provide essential legal aid services to more than 100,000 Texans across the state each year. We look forward to making a difference with Cendera Bank as a Prime Partner bank.”
— SMU Dedman School of Law’s Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center and Dallas nonprofit Child Poverty Action Lab have partnered on a project that aims to improve the criminal justice system in Dallas County by helping prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys make faster, more informed decisions about whether to file criminal charges against individuals. The Deason Center’s commitment to criminal justice reform and CPAL’s commitment to reduce childhood poverty in Dallas created a shared interest in reducing family separations, and the long-term project is designed for the two organizations to share resources and expertise to improve the criminal legal process in Dallas County.
One way the new partnership seeks to pull this off is through two full-time victim advocates that the Deason Center will hire to work in the Dallas County district attorney’s office for one year. The Dallas DA’s office currently has such advocates only for cases involving intimate violence, but through the Deason-CPAL partnership, there will be victim advocates in other types of assault cases, such as family violence and aggravated assault. The victim intake fellows will help victims access essential resources like counseling, housing assistance and financial aid while providing prosecutors with critical information that can improve the quality and speed of their charging decisions.
— On Wednesday, July 26, Nexus Recovery Center will host its last “Noontime with Nexus” event of the summer, which provides a complimentary lunch and campus tour led by CEO Heather Ormand that provides a behind-the-scenes peek into Nexus’s mission, work and staff. Nexus is a Dallas-area nonprofit recovery center that serves women struggling with substance abuse and stands out for its ability to also accommodate patients’ children — a lack of childcare is a large reason why many women don’t seek treatment. Nexus was the nonprofit beneficiary that Attorneys Serving the Community — a coalition of high-powered women lawyers, judges and others in the Dallas legal community — chose to raise money for this past year. ASC raised more than $500,000 for Nexus — $63,500 of which was raised at ASC’s recent annual luncheon, the final fundraising event of the year for Nexus. ASC had originally sought to raise $35,000 at the annual luncheon, but received additional funds through day-of donations, including one donor who pledged $25,000.
ASC will select a new charity to raise funds for over the next year at a member meeting next Thursday at Carrington Coleman’s offices.
To enroll for Noontime with Nexus: Visit here