Pro Bono the Texas Appleseed Way: Multiply the Giving, Multiply the Justice
by Gabriella McDonald
If you ask most people what it means to them to do legal work on a pro bono basis, they will tell you about one specific person or family they were able to help and the impact it had on both the individual and themselves. It is incredibly important work to ensure that a parent is not wrongfully evicted due to a simple inability to pay rent on time that month or to secure a fair and timely trial for an asylum applicant. And it is a remarkable feeling to help even one person conquer a problem they thought they had no chance of facing successfully.
But imagine what it’s like to make a difference for thousands of Texans with one pro bono effort. For example, by creating a self-help guide that alleviates feelings of confusion of a complex legal process, like civil asset forfeiture. Or to know that your efforts could help prevent 5-year-olds all over the State from being labeled “bad eggs” before their school path even has a chance to solidify because you helped make sure kindergarteners can no longer be suspended or expelled for simply acting their age. Imagine how that remarkable feeling of helping one individual or one family can multiply upon itself by doing more than just changing an unjust situation, but by addressing unjust systems. That is what you both get and give when you do pro bono with Texas Appleseed: the benefits of pro bono — that remarkable feeling that comes with giving and that positive effect for someone in your community — on a large scale.
Indeed, Texas Appleseed’s pro bono partners’ efforts allow for multiplication of the benefits for Texas Appleseed itself, as well. First, pro bono work allows our team of 15 to serve a state of more than 28 million people. Second, the value of pro bono partner work basically doubles our budget yearly, which not only expands our reach, but helps us to show funders and donors that we are good stewards of their dollars, by being able to stretch each one to the max.
Those who do pro bono with Texas Appleseed have done everything from conducting legal/legislative research in order to draft an informative memo, to completing data analysis and in-depth interviews that serve as the basis of a report that informs essential reforms. And we cannot thank our pro bono partners enough for the work that they do.
Most recently, we expressed our immense gratitude to Latham & Watkins LLP (one of two 2018 Pro Bono Leadership Awardees) for their work on the Make My School Safe toolkit, now available at www.makemyschoolsafe.org. Several of Latham’s Houston-based attorneys dedicated many of their valuable hours to research, organize, and edit the content of the toolkit, which we hope will help students, parents, teachers, and administrators create and maintain safe and happy school environments for years to come.
Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP also received our 2018 Pro Bono Leadership Award. We cannot express how grateful we are to the firm as they continue their indispensable work on an important fair housing case that will have an impact on how jurisdictions use disaster recovery dollars.
We point all this out to remind you that as we strive to make this season of giving a “Season of Justice,” doing pro bono work with Texas Appleseed is a way to take the time and knowledge you have to give and multiply it exponentially to create a more just Texas.