Slack & Davis, L.L.P. | Making a Difference
by Alicia Hernandez
The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) and its clients would not be where they are today without the support of donors to the Equal Access to Justice Campaign.
Slack & Davis, L.L.P., a personal injury law firm that represents victims of air crashes, truck wrecks, oilfield and electrical accidents, dangerous pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices, is one of these donors. The firm has a special affinity for DVAP because, like DVAP, it helps ordinary citizens who find themselves in difficult circumstances. “DVAP’s clients, like ours are just regular people living their lives who find themselves forced into the legal system. We help our clients obtain justice and move forward with their lives. DVAP does the same,” said Michael Slack, a partner at Slack & Davis.
“Helping DVAP is a natural extension of the work we do every day,” added Ladd Sanger, also a partner at the firm. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of a program that helps people access the courts and find justice for those who otherwise wouldn’t have it. This is what we are all about.”
Pro Bono in Dallas has been a tradition since 1982. Most people know the story of Judge Merrill Hartman, Chris Reed-Brown, and Will Pryor starting the first free legal clinic for the poor in Dallas. One community center, two determined lawyers, and one very delightful pro bono coordinator joined forces for one legal clinic on one day in 1982.
And, now, 30 years later, we have the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program with 11 legal clinics per month at seven community centers and churches, a special legal clinic just for veterans and their families, and wills clinics that serve new Habitat homeowners and the elderly. Eight pro se family law clinics serve both English and Spanish speakers every month and ease the burden of pro se filings at the courthouse. DVAP even has its own night court in conjunction with Dallas County Courts. The program serves an average of 400 new clients every month to add to the approximately 1,100 people who, at any given time, have ongoing cases with DVAP.
To make sure the clinics run smoothly and clients can be served, DVAP recruits, trains, and mentors volunteers so they can help, have the skills they need to represent their pro bono clients, and find their experience rewarding. In October alone, DVAP hosted ten recruiting and training events at law firms and Belo. In addition to our volunteer attorneys, DVAP would not be successful without its volunteer judges, court reporters, court staff, paralegals, legal secretaries, law students, and other volunteers who pitch in every day to keep the doors open and the work flowing.
Day in and day out, DVAP staff, volunteers, and generous donors like Slack & Davis, L.L.P. are pushing forward and carrying on the legacy of pro bono in Dallas. It is a legacy that means so much to the pro bono clients, including clients like “Marie,” “Shannon,” and “Joyce” who had nowhere else to turn but DVAP. Marie now has a pro bono lawyer helping her get a guardianship over her severely injured son who is a victim of a violent crime. Shannon’s attorney is working feverishly for the return of her infant daughter who was secreted away by the baby’s biological father. Joyce’s pro bono lawyer is fighting a David and Goliath battle to save her home from mortgage fraud.
“Equal Access to Justice Campaign donors make a difference in the lives of people right here in Dallas every day of the year. The things our volunteers are doing are so compelling—helping victims of domestic violence, saving homes, protecting children. Our volunteers and our donors are an inspiration,” said Michael Hurst, Chair of the 2013 Equal Access to Justice Campaign.
Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.