A message from the 2017 Houston Bar Foundation Chair
It has been said that adversity does not create character, but rather reveals it. On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey threw a tidal wave of adversity at Houston, leaving much of the city underwater, thousands of homes and businesses destroyed or damaged, and thousands of citizens displaced and in need of food, shelter, and medical and legal help. And did Houston and Houston lawyers ever reveal their can do, generous and caring character in response. As the 2017 Chair of the Houston Bar Foundation, I witnessed firsthand how the Houston legal community came together, pitched in, and helped each other and our fellow citizens in the aftermath of Harvey. Those who contributed to the Foundation should be commended for the great work they helped support this year.
The Houston Bar Foundation was established in 1982 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to act as the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association (HBA). The Foundation’s mission is to help provide legal representation to the indigent, promote community understanding of our legal system, and foster the administration of justice. In short, it helps make Houston a city where “justice for all” is an obtainable, and not just an aspirational, goal.
The Foundation oversees an endowment that now exceeds $13 million. Since 1982, the Foundation has issued grants exceeding $17 million, and the majority of those funds have gone directly to Houston Volunteer Lawyers (HVL) to support pro bono legal services for Houstonians in need of legal help but without the means to pay for those services. The Foundation raises funds through 1) the annual Harvest Celebration, which is co-sponsored by the Houston Bar Association and the Houston Bar Association Auxiliary, and 2) the Fellows program.
In 2017, the Harvest Celebration raised over $735,200, and the Fellows program over $100,000. These funds, as well as the earnings from the endowment, allowed the HBF to grant nearly $1 million in funds to HVL, which enabled HVL and pro bono attorneys to, among other things:
handle over 1,600 pro bono cases;
hold free veterans legal clinics at the DeBakey VA Hospital every Friday afternoon and on many Saturdays;
staff free legal help booths at the Civil Courthouse and the Harris County Law Library;
provide low-income patients with legal assistance through the Texas Children’s Medical-Legal Partnership;
hold free legal clinics at community centers in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey; and
aid survivors of domestic violence at the Houston Area Women’s Center.
Back to Harvey, through generous support from lawyers in and outside of Houston, the Foundation was also able to provide grants to local lawyers whose practices were severely impacted by the storm. Lawyers and law firms from around the country contributed money for their Houston colleagues, and we matched those in need of housing and office furniture with those willing to help them. And the Foundation Board helped the HBA staff an extended LegalLine program to counsel on legal issues facing Houstonians after the storm. Two law firms in particular stepped up after the storm with incredible generosity. Gibbs & Bruns and Williams Kherker each donated $100,000 to the Foundation to aid in its mission. And 50 lawyers joined the Foundation as Fellows in 2017. The Fellows program provides members of the bar the opportunity to join a fellowship in support of justice for all and holds annual events to encourage collegiality and networking. If you are not a Fellow, please consider joining our noble cause and becoming one.
The Annual Foundation Luncheon was held on February 8, 2018 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. In addition to honoring firms, corporations and individuals that made significant pro bono contributions during 2017, we had the opportunity to hear from Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale as the keynote speaker. No individual better represents Houston’s spirit and character of giving and helping others than Jim McIngvale, and we enjoyed hearing from such an inspirational leader. It was a wonderful event for all.
It has been a great pleasure and honor to serve as 2017 Chair of the Foundation. Barrett Reasoner will serve as the 2018 Chair, and the Foundation could not have chosen a more outstanding leader. Thank you for revealing the truly outstanding character of the Houston legal community in supporting the Foundation’s mission to ensure all Houstonians, regardless of income, have access to justice.