The Texas Bar Foundation recently awarded the Smith County Bar Foundation a $5,000 grant to implement a volunteer attorney mentoring and training program, according to a news release from the Smith County Bar Foundation.
The program will provide education and resources to volunteers so that they are more confident, and willing and able to handle the more complex cases. The mentoring and training program coordinator will research, develop and implement the forms, check lists, flow charts and other materials needed.
The Smith County Bar Foundation will contact experienced family law attorneys and schedule them to provide formal instruction and informal mentoring for volunteer attorneys so they can manage the more complex family law cases, according to the release.
The volunteer attorney program of the Smith County Bar Foundation has grown in both volunteers and pro bono clients since its inception in 2012, the news release stated. The need for pro bono services also has increased, and the need has increased for attorneys willing to handle more complex divorce matters.
About 85 percent of the cases submitted for volunteer legal service in Smith County are divorces, and two-thirds of those cases are more complex family matters, such as those involving children, parents who are missing or are incarcerated and property, according to the release. There are three times as many complex divorce cases as there are volunteer attorneys trained to handle them.
Both programs operate in collaboration with Lone Star Legal Aid. All clients must apply and be qualified for services according to LSLA guidelines, the release stated. Experienced attorneys will provide training and materials, as well as mentoring for less experienced volunteer attorneys so that they can assist those with more complex issues.
The Texas Bar Foundation funds projects throughout Texas that further legal services for the underserved. Since its inception, in 1965, the foundation has awarded more than $15 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the foundation is the nation’s largest charitably funded bar foundation, according to the news release.
The Smith County Bar Foundation was formed in 2003 and funds similar projects on a local basis. Projects include the volunteer attorney coordinator, an annual Constitution Day Celebration event open to the public, an annual Law Day celebration and the scaled version of the Smith County Courthouse at the Discovery Science Place.
For more information, contact the Smith County Bar Foundation at 903-526-2700 or cristy@smith countybar.com.