This week’s edition of P.S. highlights three awards received by law firms, individuals and bar associations for their commitment to diversity and pro bono legal services, as well as upcoming August dates for legal clinics hosted by the Dallas Bar Association’s pro bono arm, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program.
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— Earlier this month, the National Association of Women Lawyers honored Sidley Austin’s Yvette Ostolaza with its 2023 M. Ashley Dickerson Diversity Award. The award is named after Mahala Ashley Dickerson, NAWL’s first African American president and honors a lawyer who has promoted and advanced diversity in the legal profession. Ostolaza, who last year became the chair of Sidley’s management committee, is the first Latina and first Texan to lead a top 50 global corporate law firm (and one that is in the top 10 for revenues, according to The Texas Lawbook 50. She is also the first woman to lead a top seven AmLaw revenue firm. This isn’t the only time Ostolaza will be recognized for her DEI accomplishments; on Aug. 6, Ostolaza will be honored as one of five recipients of the 2023 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Denver.
— On Wednesday, the Houston Bar Association honored three recipients with its 2023 HBA Diversity Awards, which are given to outstanding law firms and individuals for their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the legal profession.
The winner in the organization category was Bush Seyferth, which pursues improving DEI in multiple ways. It provides clerkship and mentorship opportunities to diverse summer law clerks, college students and high school students interested in the legal profession. It hosts a speed networking event that connects diverse law students with in-house counsel, judges, representatives of bar associations and other legal organizations and also has a scholarship fund through its foundation that provides financial support to students from diverse backgrounds committed to DEI as they pursue their legal career.
The HBA named two lawyers as winners for the individual category: Akin partner Eric Muñoz and Foley & Lardner Houston office managing partner Scott Ellis.
Muñoz mentors aspiring lawyers through the University of Houston Law Center’s pre-law pipeline program, which supports students from low-income, first generation and underrepresented backgrounds interested in pursuing legal careers. He also has led DEI efforts within Akin’s Houston office, including his service as chair of the firm’s DEI Committee and Inclusion Committee as well as leading the office’s DEI network and presence among firm offices and minority-focused organizations statewide.
Ellis has served as a member of the HBA’s DEI committee and implicit bias task force, uses his leadership positions to ensure DEI is front of mind during Foley recruitment and retention efforts, and as a member of the University of Houston Law Center’s alumni board of directors works with law students to advance and develop their trial skills before graduation.
— On July 22, the Texas Access to Justice Commission honored two bar organizations in Texas for their commitment to public access to civil legal services through its Deborah G. Hankinson Awards. The Division I winner (less than 500 members) was the Jefferson County Bar Association, which has a pro bono program that provided legal services to more than 100 members of their community. The organization also provided pro bono services to veterans, adoption services at reduced costs and sealed criminal records and offered expunctions to individuals in Jefferson, Hardin and Orange counties.
The Division III (2,000-plus members) winner was the Austin Bar Association, which offers numerous pro bono programs that assist adoptive parents, cancer patients facing end-of-life planning, litigants on the uncontested civil docket and veterans. The Austin Bar also has a DEI committee that compiles resources and information for historically disadvantaged individuals to aid their efforts to access the justice system, and it supports the operations of the Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas and the Lawyer Referral Service of Texas, which offers reduced-fee attorneys for eligible applicants. There was no winner for a Division II (500 to 1,999 members) bar association because none were nominated this year.
— Throughout the month of August the DBA’s Dallas the Volunteer Attorney Program will hold 10 free virtual and in-person legal clinics for those in need of pro bono services. Separately, DVAP volunteer attorneys will answer legal questions for free on its hotline, LegalLine, every Wednesday in April from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. An anonymous volunteer attorney will call the client to provide up to 15 minutes of legal advice. Because space is limited, registration will close at noon the Tuesday prior. The calls will not establish a client-attorney relationship.
Hotline clinic enrollment link: https://tinyurl.com/DBALegalLine
Virtual clinics (8 a.m to 8 p.m.):
Aug. 3: DVAP and Akin
Aug. 4: (Veterans virtual clinic): DVAP and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
Aug. 10: DVAP and DLA Piper
Aug. 17: DVAP, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Hunton Andrews Kurth and Haynes Boone
Aug. 31: DVAP and St. Mary’s University School of Law
To enroll in: https://tinyurl.com/DVAPClinic
Veterans clinic: Aug. 4 at 1:30 p.m. at the VA Medical Center (4500 Lancaster Rd, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and Bank of America
South Dallas clinic: Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (2922 Martin Luther King Blvd., Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and DBA’s Solo Volunteers group
East Dallas clinic: Aug. 17 at 5 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church (4105 Junius at Haskell, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and Solo Volunteers
South Dallas clinic: Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (2922 Martin Luther King Blvd., Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and Solo Volunteers
West Dallas clinic: Aug. 24 at 5 p.m.: April 27 at 5 p.m. at the West Dallas Multi-purpose Center (2828 Fish Trap Rd., Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and DBA’s Solo Volunteers