Pro Bono Opportunities
There are several options for attorneys to volunteer to assist nonprofits and small business clients.
Pro Bono Panel
Attorneys participating in Texas C-BAR’s pro bono panel have the opportunity to work on individual, discrete transactional legal matters for nonprofits and microenterprises. Texas C-BAR sends out requests for referrals to attorneys on our pro bono panel via e-mail, which provides information about the clients, the legal matter being referred, and conflicts information. We send these requests out to multiple attorneys and law firms. Attorneys who are interested in accepting a specific matter then contact Texas C-BAR staff, who facilitate the referral.
Community Counsel Partnerships
Texas C-BAR’s Community Counsel Partnership initiative pairs a corporate legal department or law firm with an individual nonprofit to serve as the nonprofit’s general counsel for a year. As a Community Counsel Partner, a law firm can also partner with an in-house legal department to serve as joint general counsel for the nonprofit. While serving as general counsel, the lawyers work to address the nonprofit’s full range of transactional legal needs, ranging from providing simple advice about conflict of interest policies to reviewing contracts. If at any time a specific matter arises which the attorneys do not want to handle (e.g., because of the mismatch of expertise, conflicts, or resources), Texas C-BAR will refer the matter to another pro bono panel member.
By working with a specific nonprofit as Community Counsel Partner, lawyers are able to work together as a team and focus on the needs of an individual low-income neighborhood. Moreover, whether it is a row of new houses built, a dilapidated building renovated into a child care center for low-income families, or an entire neighborhood transformed, the lawyers will be able to personally see the long-term impact of their legal work in a community.
All Texas C-BAR referrals follow these 7 Steps
Step 1: Nonprofit or Microentrepreneur contacts Texas C-BAR.
Step 2: Texas C-BAR screens organization.
Texas C-BAR screens each client that contacts us to determine whether the client meets our eligibility guidelines and has a legal matter appropriate and ready to refer through Texas C-BAR.
Step 3: Texas C-BAR sends referral request to pro bono panel.
After screening requests from clients, we send out the approved matters via a weekly e-mail to the pro bono coordinators at volunteer firms and legal departments. The e-mail includes background on the client and a summary of the legal matter. Attorneys who need more information about the referral can contact Texas C-BAR.
Step 4: Attorney accepts referral.
Attorneys who are interested in accepting the matter contact our office to accept the referral. We then refer the matter to one of the accepting attorneys along with an intake sheet summarizing the client’s information. The scope of representation and duration of the engagement is a matter to be decided between the law firm and the client in their retainer agreement, which can be either the law firm’s own form or a standard form available from Texas C-BAR.
Step 5: Client contacts volunteer attorney and completes retainer agreement/client engagement letter.
After a matter is referred to an attorney, the client is notified to contact the attorney. At that time, the attorney should first make sure she has no conflicts of interest. After determining that there are no conflicts, the attorney should discuss with the client the scope of representation and have the client sign Texas C-BAR’s form retainer agreement or the attorney’s own client engagement letter.
Step 6: Texas C-BAR staff provides ongoing support.
After a referral is made, Texas C-BAR staff is available to help work through any issues that arise in the representation and provide legal support related to the referral. Participating attorneys have access to our online legal library and legal forms for typical transactions. Texas C-BAR can also assist in involving other attorneys in the referral for more complicated matters or matters requiring additional expertise. During the referral, Texas C-BAR will periodically contact the volunteer attorney and client for a status report.
Step 7: Case Closure.
Upon completion of the representation, the volunteer attorney should let Texas C-BAR know, so that we can send out a formal closing letter which will include a final disposition form for the attorney to complete and return. In order to assist Texas C-BAR leverage the impact of services provided by our volunteers, we ask that you send us copies of significant documents prepared in the course of your representation that we can share with our other volunteers helping clients.
We also appreciate your cooperation in completing the evaluation which we will forward to you after a matter is closed. To continually improve upon our services, Texas C-BAR must be able to measure the quality and impact of time and resources donated to the clients. Completion of the evaluation is essential to the long-term success of our work.