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Pro Bono Spotlights Serving Pro Bono Clients in a Pandemic:

Houston Volunteer Lawyers


uring COVID-19, thousands of Houstonians have struggled with unemployment, often getting behind on their rent and facing eviction as moratoriums expired and landlords began eviction proceedings. Family law issues also increased, as domestic violence and other family problems were exacerbated by the need to quarantine and the stress caused by worry over jobs, health, and educating children remotely. Houston Volunteer Lawyers (HVL) mobilized early in the pandemic to recruit volunteer attorneys to provide legal representation for low-income Houstonians so they could achieve the best possible outcomes, while working within the constraints of remote intake, interviews, and hearings. During 2020, HVL quickly pivoted to online intake and virtual clinics, providing assistance to over 2,000 people in the Houston area. There were hundreds of local attorneys who volunteered to represent low-income Houstonians through HVL during the past year. They provided the expertise to make critical differences in the lives of those who need it most. Below are stories of just a few of those attorneys who helped during a challenging year. Eric Boylan

Eric Boylan of Locke Lord LLP represented a couple who were the parents of a son who had suffered since birth from conditions that made him completely dependent on his parents for care in every aspect of daily life. When their son turned 18, the parents were told they would no longer be able to make decisions for him because he was now a legal adult. Through HVL’s Medical-Legal Partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital, the parents were paired with Eric, who helped them seek co-guardianship of their son. Although the COVID-19 pandemic presented serious obstacles, Eric was able to work through every aspect of the case remotely, including intake, interviews, and the final prove-up hearing. On December 16, 2020, the parents were awarded co-guardianship and now can continue to provide the care their son needs. “Whether performed in person or remotely, pro bono work continues to be as important as it has ever been,” Eric said. “It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the Houston community and to provide the kinds of essential legal services that impact lives in a meaningful way.”

sistance, he had not yet been approved. Dalya was able to get a short trial continuance because of the client’s medical condition, and shelter housing became available right before the reset date. The veteran was able to move into the shelter while awaiting permanent housing. Meanwhile, the landlord amended his petition to request back rent, and he refused to negotiate a move-out agreement, insisting on going forward with a trial. At trial, Dalya successfully argued that the case was now moot, since the client had moved out and returned possession of the property to the landlord. The judge immediately dismissed the case, awarding $0 to the landlord. Because of Dalya’s efforts, the veteran faced a smoother transition into new housing. “Helping veterans is always a good thing,” said Dalya. “They put their lives on the line for us. It’s my honor to serve one of our heroes.” On continuing to serve pro bono clients during a pandemic, Dalya had this observation: “We will all have good stories to tell the next generation, so let’s empower them with love and compassion to help and support each other. I think this is one brick that can keep any community strong, no matter how hard the situation. This may have been my first experience with HVL, but I am sure it will not be the last.”

Dalya Alabassi

Staci Wilson

Dalya Alabassi assisted a veteran with severe health conditions who faced eviction and had nowhere to go. He did not have a lease on his apartment, but rather rented on a month to month basis. The landlord was a new owner of the property and wanted him to move out, so he filed to evict the veteran. Although the veteran had applied for veterans housing as-

Staci Wilson, a partner with Bracewell LLP, successfully represented a grandmother in a conservatorship case. The grandmother had been raising two grandchildren because her daughter suffered from mental illness and could not take care of them. The children’s fathers were not in their lives. Staci helped the grandmother get a court order granting her conservatorship so she could care for and

14 May/June 2021