Eduardo V. Rodriguez The director of the South Plains Association of Governments made an exception in 1993 when he allowed first-year law student Eduardo V. Rodriguez to be trained as a mediator for the organization—a position typically designated for 2Ls. The risk paid off; Rodriguez took on more than 100 mediation cases before he graduated from Texas Tech University School of Law. Now a managing attorney of Malaise Law Firm in Brownsville, he continues his passion for serving others. What are some common characteristics of a successful pro bono attorney? There are many; however, the most important of those would be a kind and patient heart. Professionals must remember that they have an ethical obligation to zealously represent their clients. More often that not, I see lawyers lose that zealousness when taking on cases for the poor. What would you say to someone who is thinking about starting pro bono work? That the good work you do, for even one individual, will be returned to you in paid cases tenfold. Don’t hesitate—get involved. Are there any misconceptions about pro bono? There is a common misconception that pro bono cases take up too much of a lawyer’s time and that that time is better spent on fee-paying cases. That is simply not true. In my experience, I find that my pro bono clients are the most cooperative and forthcoming clients that I have the pleasure of representing. They are so grateful that the lawyer is assisting them in a legal matter that they are more than willing and able to assist in completing the case quickly. How do you find time for pro bono clients? I make sure that my schedule is created in such a way that I can accommodate all the pro bono work I can handle. There are times when I attend night events, such as divorce proceedings or wills clinics. I am grateful that I have such an understanding wife who allows me to serve at such extraordinary hours. Describe a memorable case. I would have to say that my most memorable pro bono case was a Chapter 7 bankruptcy matter. I represented an elderly couple. When we discussed them traveling 30 miles to the U.S. Trustee’s Office to testify at a creditors meeting, they did not hesitate in agreeing to do so. However, I later discovered that they did not own a vehicle and thus would need to make use of public transportation. When I volunteered to pick them up and transport them to the meeting, they were so filled with joy that they both cried in my office, hugged me, said a personal prayer for me, and blessed me. The entire experience was so overwhelming that it still brings tears to my eyes.
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