Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services. To kick off our Pro Bono Week celebration, we would like to share the profiles of two dedicated Oklahoma based volunteers, Jessica Ortiz Sanchez and Brent S. Howard, who volunteer with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc (LAOK).
As I grew up, I dreamed to be an attorney to help people, to make a difference in their lives. My main motivation has always been to work for access to justice for all.
I began volunteering for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in 2015 with a Chapter 7 case; which was my first bankruptcy case. The amazing Donna Ellsworth, paralegal for the Lawton office motivated me and guided me thru the process. Thanks to that experience I am now skilled in bankruptcy law and have done one more pro-bono bankruptcy case.
Another memorable case was a name change for a minor child. The parents needed to correct the spelling and last name of their child in the birth certificate. While it seems like an easy task it was a complicated legal issue for the parents who do not understand the process and are not proficient in the English language. Since I am fluent in Spanish and familiar with their culture I was able to relate with the clients and complete the process promptly. The clients were satisfied and very grateful for my work.
Pro Bono net has many resources available for volunteers. The HotDocs platform for documents templates, LawHelp Interactive, is very convenient and the CLE programs curated on the calendar are outstanding. Moreover, the extraordinary people from LAOK are always available to mentor when needed. Besides fulfilling the dream to help people, this experience has equipped me with new skills, vast knowledge and understanding of legal topics.
I’m also involved with the Oklahoma’s Lawyers for Hero’s Program. Thru this program I have the opportunity to serve active duty, retirees and veterans in need of legal services. As of today, I have spent several volunteer hours representing those who have dropped their own affairs to serve our Country.
It might be time consuming and challenging at times but it’s satisfying knowing you have made a difference in the client’s life. I will definitely recommend it to my colleagues attorneys.
I am a proud supporter of the Pro Bono Net and LAOK, and will continue to work to remove barriers and bring access to justice for all.
Brent S. Howard is a homegrown attorney. He attended grade school and High School in the rural surrounds of Altus, Oklahoma. He attained an Agricultural Economics and Accounting Degree from Oklahoma State University and a Law degree from University of Oklahoma. He then went on to attain Legal Masters (LL.M.) in Taxation from the New York University School of Law. He has been certified to practice by the Oklahoma Bar Association as well as the United States Tax Court.
Mr. Howard has now come home because he “saw that there was a lack of information and a lack of people knowledgeable in implementing estate and tax planning on a comprehensive basis.” Since returning home Mr. Howard has become a valued asset to the community he volunteers in all aspects of the community. He is the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Western Oklahoma State College, committees at the First United Methodist Church, he is the past President of the local Bar Association, a member of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and he is a State Director for the Young Farmers and Ranchers Association.
Mr. Howard uses his knowledge “to help tax-exempt organizations organize their paperwork. For all Non-Profit Organizations he “donates half of his time when he helps with filing for IRS recognition, organizing documents with the State, or other non-litigation work.” Some of his most memorable work he has done is with the youth of our community. He holds much esteem in a quote he heard at a local seminar “Your job or profession should not define who you are, it should only be a platform for you setting that definition.”
Mr. Howard continually helps with annual legal clinics involving the youth in our high schools featuring the Oklahoma Bar Association own guide “You are 18 now”. He thrives on being a mentor to local youth and giving guidance into future endeavors. Although he may not be the traditional Pro Bono Attorney Legal Aid sees daily he brings a world of knowledge to other areas of law we do not delve in so that our clients have a growing appreciation for our referral systems. We are a small rural community that work hand and hand with other local Non-profits and by Mr. Howard helping these smaller non-profits it brings more advantages to our communities. For example, one such non-profit he has been helping is our local House of Grace and Mercy which would help mothers and children be provided the basic skill sets to be independent or less dependent on others to care for their children. This would help mothers reintegrate with their children after separations have occurred. This also extends to the local Exodus House which is a “proven effective program for ex-offenders to get on their feet and prepare to be an asset to the community. This program has succeeded in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.
Without Mr. Howard’s help and initiative to serve this community these smaller non-profits may not be able to move forward. He should be acknowledged for his long standing help and the guidance he provides for both the youth of our community as well as the overall community. We would like to thank him for his service and we look forward to our futures together in this community.
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO) is a non-profit, statewide organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income people throughout Oklahoma. LASO has 18 offices throughout Oklahoma. LASO is a proud partner with Pro Bono Net providing information and resources to support our volunteers and staff through www.probono.net/ok.
Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.