To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :
Equal access to justice is a crucial issue for our nation, our state and our local community. A recent study by the Legal Services Corporation reveals that 50 percent of indigent Americans who need and qualify for legal aid do not receive services because legal aid offices do not have the resources to help them. That figure is consistent with informal findings in Texas as well.
The Houston Bar Association (HBA) has developed an initiative to increase pro bono representation in our community by at least 25 percent this year. We created an innovative, team approach that commits law firms and corporate legal departments to increase significantly the number of pro bono cases handled each year through the HBA's Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program. Each firm or corporation signs a pledge to handle a certain number of cases each year for five years, based on their size.
To highlight our initiative, we have proclaimed this as 'The Year of the Volunteer' at the HBA, and we will prominently feature participating firms and corporations in our publications and on our website as 'Equal Access Champions.' We also hope to increase public awareness of the issue through the media.
I am proud of the Houston legal community's tradition of donating thousands of pro bono hours each year through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, and I challenge law firms and in-house legal departments to do more. We anticipate that new firms and corporations will join the effort each year.
I encourage readers to visit our website, www.hba.org, to see the list of law firms and corporations that have already committed to the HBA's Equal Access Initiative. If you have questions about our program, please feel free to call me at (713) 221-1454 or Kay Sim, executive director of the HBA, at (713) 759-1133.
Glenn A. Ballard, Jr .