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GiVE Back: V&E Pro Bono Blog

From the Desk of: V&E's (and Texas') First Pro Bono Counsel

Welcome to GiVE Back – V&E’s pro bono blog. In order to shine a light on the importance and impact of the work we will do, this blog will highlight V&E’s pro bono programming, hot topics in pro bono and legal services, and real-life client stories. Providing access to justice to those in need, and those organizations who serve them, is a hallmark of our profession and our firm, and what makes us proud to be lawyers.

V&E’s pro bono history is well-documented and a great source of pride. Since its inception, V&E has taken seriously its role in the pro bono legal community, and has taken on important pro bono matters and issues since the firm opened its doors. Notably, in 1938, firm founder William Vinson joined a team of lawyers that represented Edgar Smith, an African-American, before the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Smith had been indicted by an all-white grand jury and convicted by a all-white jury for raping a Caucasian woman. The Court overturned the conviction, agreeing that grand juries, like juries, were required to “be a body truly representative of the community”. This culture of fighting for what is right and giving access to justice to those in need, continued throughout the years, amassing more pro bono successes, making broad impact in the community. Throughout V&E’s 100 year history, our pro bono culture has only strengthened, and the drive to help directs everything we do. 

As a career public interest lawyer, never did I think I would find myself at a large law firm. I spent the first 6 years of my career as the Domestic Violence Staff Attorney at the South Texas College of Law Legal Clinic. I helped victims of domestic violence tackle the issues of that face them, both those incurred by the violent situations they find themselves in, and as a result of poverty, in general. This was my passion. This was what I was going to do forever. This was the only way I knew to deliver legal services to those in need. That is until I heard that Vinson & Elkins was in the market for a Pro Bono Counsel. As I learned more about the role of Pro Bono Counsel and the work that V&E was already doing in the community, I was intrigued. I recognized that with a full docket of cases, I could only donate up to 2500ish hours a year on my own. With 600plus lawyers aiming to do 50 hours each year, with the resources at the firm behind each case, the number of people and organizations that would get help would be tremendous. So, I made the leap, and became Texas’ and V&E’s first Pro Bono Counsel

Since taking that leap in 2008, working with an active pro bono committee and Harry Reasoner, Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, we have created more opportunities and built more programs that aim to increase the access for those in the community, and provide V&E lawyers with opportunities to hone their skills. Assisting more than 50 Holocaust Survivors with reparations, establishing a guardianship program with local hospitals for families with disabled children, pioneering Virtual Legal Clinics through SKYPE and launching a Texas Immigrant Rights Hotline, are just some of the programs that operate every day to make sure that those in need find help

Through this blog, I hope to highlight the importance of pro bono, current pro bono happenings at V&E, and commentary – both mine and that of some guest writers – on hot topics in the legal services community. 

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V&E Pro Bono Brochure

See more details about our Pro Bono program


Ellyn Haikin Josef Pro Bono Counsel