The Houston Bar Foundation provides an annual grant to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, a service of the Houston Bar Association. Houston Volunteer Lawyers uses these funds, which represent approximately one-third of its operating budget, to provide critical legal services to low-income Houstonians. The Houston Bar Association established Houston Volunteer Lawyers in 1981 to fill a gap in the provision of legal services to those people who could not qualify for traditional legal aid programs because they were working to support their families. In reality, however, their income would not cover even their most basic legal needs, such as child custody, landlord/tenant issues and probate matters. Through Houston Volunteer Lawyers, volunteer private attorneys handle cases pro bono for eligible, low-income clients.
In 2015, Houston Volunteer Lawyers provided in-person, one-on-one legal advice to over 5,800 applicants at no charge. Nearly 950 of their matters were referred to pro bono lawyers for long-term representation – which represents a placement rate of 97 percent. Over 2,000 of the persons helped in 2015 were United States veterans or spouses of deceased veterans. In addition, Houston Volunteer Lawyers assisted about 6,300 pro se litigants at its Courthouse Booth in 2015.
In 2015, 1,332 volunteer attorneys logged over 12,650 hours on pro bono cases through Houston Volunteer Lawyers; 264 of those attorneys had never volunteered with Houston Volunteer Lawyers before. At a rate of $250 per hour, the time donated by Houston Volunteer Lawyers volunteers represents a benefit to low-income persons seeking legal assistance of $3,162,500.