We responded to a request for volunteer attorneys circulated earlier this year by the Dallas Bar Association Construction Law Section. Specifically, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP) was looking for attorneys that were willing to interview applicants at area legal clinics. Though we were reasonably certain that construction litigation would never be the subject of a clinic interview, we responded to the call. Our office has since staffed six clinics and the experience has been as positive as we had been told to expect.
For those who may not know, The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is a joint program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The program serves individuals meeting financial eligibility guidelines in areas such as family law, bankruptcy protection, landlord-tenant disputes and consumer law. The vast majority of our experience with the legal clinics has related to family law disputes, including divorces, custody disputes and support applications/modifications. Having not opened the Texas Family Code since law school, we were initially concerned with our ability to interview, understand and counsel applicants concerning such matters. However, the clinic system developed by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and our generalized legal understandings and experience rendered us more capable and comfortable than we had thought possible.
Varying degrees of unfortunate circumstances brought each of the applicants that we have interviewed to our respective clinic. Many of the applicants that we have met with were at the mercy of abusive, neglectful and/or well funded individuals. Due to the relatively complex, intimidating and resource- consuming nature of the family court system, many of the applicants would remain indefinitely in troubled situations were it not for the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program staff and volunteers. The amount of relief and hope evidenced by the applicants during the intake process has constituted a significant return on the limited amount of time that we have been required to invest.
Whether your motivation is a sense of professional duty, personal satisfaction or recognition of the needs of the disadvantaged, we encourage attorneys to join us in Garland or join those who are staffing one of the other six neighborhood clinics listed at the DVAP webpage.