In recognition of National Pro Bono Week (October 23–29), the UT Law Pro Bono Program celebrates the pro bono efforts of members of the Law School community.
Recently the Pro Bono Program spoke with Brandi Weaver, director of Student Services in the Law School’s Student Affairs Office, about her work representing clients in divorce cases through Volunteer Legal Services.
Weaver’s interest in pro bono work began while she was still a student at the Law School. The Children’s Rights Clinic, combined with courses she took in domestic violence law, led her to investigate pro bono opportunities after graduating in 2005. After relocating to Austin from New York, Weaver contacted VLS. “It was so helpful to have a local organization providing pro bono opportunities and the resources you need to accomplish your goals.” A couple months after starting work at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati, Weaver took on her first pro bono divorce case.
“The firm was very excited to see someone taking the initiative,” Weaver said. “Every year the firm would publish a pro bono letter and the Austin office was always pleased to have their associates in that letter.” Weaver appreciated the supportive culture of the firm, particularly since she had to deal with the challenge of learning family law on her own. “VLS hooks you up with fantastic local attorneys. So many attorneys in Austin want to help other attorneys do pro bono work.”
Today, Weaver is still working with VLS, taking one case at a time so that she can give each client the attention she deserves. The experience and personal fulfillment Weaver has gotten as a result of her pro bono work have been invaluable. “Because I was a corporate attorney, the very first hearing in my legal career was because of my family law pro bono work,” Weaver said. “After the hearing was over, I immediately wanted to do it again. I had watched before, but it was exhilarating to do it.”
Experiences like these are precisely why Weaver encourages students to make pro bono work a part of their education and their careers. “Especially in ‘Big Law,’ the chances of speaking in a courtroom are so low early in your career, even in litigation. Pro bono work gives you the chance to hone those skills in a different subject matter. Your clients are real people so you can’t blow it off. You try your hardest because they need your help.” To prepare to incorporate pro bono into their professional lives, Weaver recommends that students get involved with the Pro Bono Program and take clinics.
Weaver knows pro bono work provides students and lawyers the unique opportunity to make the world a better place while gaining skills they would not gain otherwise. “Even in Big Law, if you want to do IP or corporate or litigation, pro bono gives you the opportunity to step outside of usual everyday life and do something extraordinary. It’s something that people in other professions can’t do. Everybody can donate money. Everybody can build a house. Not everybody can take on pro bono clients.”
Contact: Tina Fernandez, Director, Pro Bono Program, William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, 512-232-6170, email@example.com