This edition of P.S. features a new bank that joined a program that finances civil legal services in Texas through IOLTA accounts, a firm that recently became Mansfield 6.0 certified, recent awards received by Texas law students and law schools and law school staff and faculty for their dedication to pro bono, two lifetime achievement awards, a Texas firm’s recognition for its veteran pro bono work and an ABOTA civil and ethics-oriented award given to a special prosecutor in the Ken Paxton impeachment trial.
Editor’s Note: In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, next week’s P.S. will run early on Wednesday, Nov. 22, because I will likely still be in a turkey-induced stupor on Friday in the aftermath of our first attempt to smoke a bird on our new Big Green Egg grill. If you have any Thanksgiving-themed public service work (or family recipes) that you’d like to share for consideration in next week’s column, please submit it to me by EOB Monday.
— Jones Walker has achieved Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule 6.0 certification status for 2022-2023, the firm recently announced. The Mansfield Rule is a well-regarded certification program aimed at diversifying the power structure of law firms and corporate legal departments and widely considered the standard by which the legal industry measures structural changes and steps taken to ensure more diverse, equitable and inclusive leadership.
Launched last year, Mansfield Rule 6.0 is the sixth adaptation and most revised version of the certification — therefore also the most rigorous to date for firms to obtain. When firms consider who to promote or hire lawyers for leadership roles, equity partnership, and the C-suite, they now are required to select from a candidate pool that includes at least a 30 percent makeup of historically underrepresented groups — women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities. Corporate legal departments are also asked to consider a more diverse pool of lawyers when hiring outside counsel. Firms are also asked to share lessons learned with each other through monthly knowledge-sharing forums, create and publish job descriptions for leadership roles and continue routine check-in, data collection and reporting milestones.
To be inducted to the roster of Mansfield-certified law firms and obtain the 6.0 status, Jones Walker “implemented a behavioral science and data-driven approach to help increase diversity in leadership,” the firm said. At least 30 percent of the talent pool considered for leadership roles were from historically underrepresented groups. Finally, the firm enhanced transparency related to leadership roles, advancement processes and compensation policies.
— Earlier this week, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation announced that it added a new partner, First Lockhart National Bank, to its Prime Partner program, which provides civil legal aid 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 banks pay 75 percent of the Federal Funds Target Rate on IOLTA accounts, which exceeds the eligibility requirements for banks participating in the IOLTA program.
Roughly 5 million Texans qualify for legal aid, and clients who benefit from the Prime Partner program are often those “facing evictions, domestic violence situations and other economic hardships that require legal assistance to navigate,” TAJF chair Deborah Hankinson said.
First Lockhart has locations across Central Texas in Austin, Kyle, Lockhart and San Marcos.
“First Lockhart National Bank is committed to making our communities a better place to live and work,” First Lockhart Chief Executive Officer Mark Sheffield said. “We take great pride in our small role as a Prime Partner, as we contribute to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s vital mission to help disadvantaged Texans in need of legal support.”
— In other Texas Access to Justice news, TAJF’s sister organization, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, announced that it celebrated Pro Bono Week (Oct. 23-29) giving out two prestigious awards to a handful of individuals.
During the state’s new Lawyer induction ceremony, which swears in Texas lawyers who recently passed the bar exam, Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby handed out both awards on behalf of the Commission: the 2023 Law Student Pro Bono Award and the 2023 Law School Commitment to Service Award.
Because the Commission couldn’t narrow it down to just one recipient, it gave the law student award to two students — Justin Atkinson of the University of Texas School of Law and Shayla Huang Nguyen of Texas A&M School of Law — for their passion for helping those in need. They also received a stipend with their award.
The law school award went to the University of Texas School of Law because, the Commission said, “the law school’s unyielding dedication to public service and its extensive influence on its community truly set it apart.”
At a separate reception, the Commission recognized a string of individual attorneys who are longstanding members of the Pro Bono College, an exclusive group of Texas lawyers and paralegals who can only join if they’ve dedicated at least 75 hours to pro bono, on par with the benchmark the State Bar of Texas sets in its membership guidelines. Law students can join if they have completed at least 50 hours of pro bono. All members have to renew their membership annually. For their decades of exceeding the State Bar’s goals for time dedicated to pro bono, the Commission recognized solo practitioners Joseph A. Connors III (25-year Pro Bono College member), Mary Jo Holloway (20 years) and Kurt A. Malmquist II (25 years) and mediator Edward L. Piña (20 years).
— On Wednesday, Baker Botts was honored with The Veterans Consortium’s 2023 Law Firm Pro Bono Mission Partner award, recognizing the firm’s work for veterans who are denied care, benefits or compensation earned from military service. In the past year alone, Baker Botts has dedicated hundreds of pro bono hours to helping veterans. The firm’s regular practice is to donate all attorney fees for related matters to The Veterans Consortium. The nonprofit provides free legal services to veterans in federal venues. Intellectual property partner Jeff Becker accepted the award on behalf of Baker Botts at a reception attended by Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Marine Kyle Carpenter.
— On Oct. 20, the Texas chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates honored Rusty Hardin with its 2023 Paul Stallings Civility and Ethics Award. The organization’s Houston chapter chose Harding or his commitment to professionalism, civility, graciousness and the highest moral and ethical standards throughout the recent impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, for which he served as a special prosecutor. The Houston chapter also selected fellow legal legend Richard Mithoff to receive the award.
“I have always believed it is important to be gracious whether you win or lose,” Hardin said in a statement. “It is especially important to maintain that grace in the face of defeat. I am a true believer of our profession, this organization, and what it stands for, which is why I am sincerely thankful for this award.”
— On Nov. 10, Baylor Law School’s veterans clinic honored two lawyers with it 2023 Advocate of the Year awards during a Waco-McLennan County Bar Association luncheon. The award recognizes lawyers who demonstrate an exceptional commitment and dedication to serving the legal needs of Central Texas veterans. This year’s recipients are:
- Waco litigator Dan McLemore, a partner at Beard Kultgen Brophy Bostwick & Dickson who handled a complex pro bono case on behalf of a veteran in Bell County who, through McLemore’s efforts, will be able to remain in his home with an affordable monthly payment schedule; and
- Hailee Yip, a 2018 Baylor Law graduate, attorney at West Webb Allbritton & Gentry and avid monthly volunteer for the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop legal aid clinic, where she provides pro bono legal advice to veterans and their spouses on family law and civil litigation matters. In law school, she was honored with the Bill Kimble Service Award, which recognizes students who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to community service.
— South Texas College of Law announced two recent awards that honored faculty, staff and students. The first recipient is Associate Dean for Experiential Education Catherine Greene Burnett, who will be honored in January with the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Pro Bono and Access to Justice Section’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. The second set of STCL recipients are three individuals — 3L student Rebecca Garcia, staff member Vinh Ho and Professor James Musselman — who made AALS’ 2023 Pro Bono Service Honor Roll.
Burnett is widely known for her pioneering efforts in public service and pro bono, even launching her first legal aid clinic in a converted gas station down the street from the law school. She created STCL’s first “client service clinic” in 1990 that offered law student-provided pro bono legal services to the greater Houston community. Over the years, she has collaborated with many partners for the clinical program, including Lone Star Legal Aid, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Harris County Health Services, United Way and other law schools.
According to TAJF Executive Director Betty Balli Torres, South Texas College of law has served 13,651 families from 1992 to 2022 through TAJF-funded programs that were “all under Cathy Burnett’s leadership.”
Burnett has been a law professor for36 years and has taught and mentored many who have gone on to carry their skills and passion for pro bono and public service to law firms, government service and nonprofits.
One example is Ellyn Haikin Josef, who served as staff attorney for STCL’s domestic violence clinic for several years before being hired by Vinson & Elkins to serve as the firm’s first full-time pro bono counsel.
“Cathy is my hero. I manage our robust pro bono program at V&E, and anything I ever learned about managing pro bono work I learned from Cathy,” Josef said. “Today — every day — she is still representing the indigent and trying to ensure they have access to justice. There is not a pro bono corner of this city that does not know Cathy. Nor is there an organization that doesn’t want her on their board, serving as a voice of knowledge and wisdom.”
The AALS pro bono honor roll celebrates the work of individuals engaging in, expanding and/or supporting their law school community in providing pro bono legal services.
Rebecca Garcia has made a significant impact by helping underserved families work through the guardianship process. Garcia was also recognized by the Supreme Court of Texas and TAJF for her outstanding contributions to the provision of legal services to the poor.
Vinh Ho co-teaches four clinics at STCL: medical-legal partnership, opioid use disorder, immigration and asylum/human trafficking. He previously served as executive director and legal services manager for BPSOS-Houston and a pro bono turned staff attorney at YMCA. He has served on the Texas Bar’s Committees on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters and Laws Relating to Immigration and Nationality.
Prof. James Musselman has contributed 50 to 100 hours a year to the Community Christian Legal Aid Clinic for five years — meeting with clients, representing some of them on a pro bono basis and meeting with the clinic administrator. He and his wife Martha have also successfully coached client with pleadings in small claims cases.
— Sorrels Law Firm partner Judy Kostura recently received the Texas Trial Lawyers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her years of exemplary service and accomplishments for her clients, the civil justice system, the bar and the legal profession.
In announcing her award, the Sorrels firm said Kostura’s award “is the culmination of a career dedicated to service of others,” including “a lifetime of meaningful and pioneering representation of injured clients; numerous offices and positions held in local, state and national bar, civil justice and trial lawyer organizations; and community service that brings credit to trial lawyers in the legal profession.” She has receipted a plethora of other awards throughout her career, including the State Bar of Texas’ Gene Cavin Award, the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association’s Scott Ozuman Trial Lawyer of the Year Award and TTLA’s John Howie Spirit of Mentorship Award.