The ATJ Pro Bono Champion is a quarterly feature highlighting the work of an attorney chosen by the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Recipients represent diverse practice and geographic areas and are selected based on their volume of and length of time spent on pro bono work. To learn more about pro bono work in Texas or to get involved, go to probonotexas.org. Koren Martin Koren Martin is an Austin-based solo practitioner in her third year of law and a member of the first cohort of the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator, or TOJI, which is an innovative approach to legal access that helps new lawyers build sustainable practices that serve low- and modest-income Texans. Inspired by her son with autism, she launched a legal career that has led to practicing elder law and working pro bono with veterans. How did you get started with pro bono cases? I am a participant in the State Bar’s Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator. As a part of this program, I agreed to do 100 hours of pro bono work in my first year. I had never really done pro bono before my involvement in TOJI, but I enjoy it so much that I anticipate it will always be part of my practice. What types of pro bono cases have you been working on? Since I am accredited with the VA, I started doing pro bono work at veterans legal clinics offered by the Austin Bar Association. I really enjoy working with veterans and have taken on a few private pro bono estate-planning clients from these clinics. I recently started working with TexasLegalAnswers.org, the new online pro bono portal offered by the Legal Access Division of the State Bar. Although a variety of questions are posted there, I have answered several dealing with family law, as that seems to be one of the areas with the most need for pro bono help. What pro bono case stands out? I worked with a man at a VA clinic who is under a guardianship and has been showing up for years with little luck getting the guardianship removed. I sat with him and listened, talked a little about the law, and gave him some homework. I think it meant a great deal to him to be heard and to be taken seriously, even if his legal cause doesn’t have teeth. That experience was a great reminder that I am not just an attorney but also a counselor at law. Knowing the law is important, but it is only the beginning of what goes into being a good lawyer. Why should new attorneys do pro bono work? Most of us go into law because of some ideal about making the world a better place, but the reality of day-today legal practice is often quite removed from this foundation. Underneath it all, many of us still want to be Atticus Finch. Pro bono work can reconnect us to the bigger picture of what it means to be attorneys and remind us all that we are still players in a system of justice.
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