A Tiger in Your Corner: How ExxonMobil Attorneys Are Making a Real Difference. by Elliott Fontenette, Texas Legal Services Center
Houston area ExxonMobil attorneys work with the Texas Legal Services Center to provide free legal assistance to low-income Texans. Each day, low-income Texans in Houston and across the state find themselves going through the civil legal system without a lawyer. Many cannot afford to hire a lawyer and, due to limited funding, do not receive legal aid which they qualify for based on income. A recent report by the Legal Services Corporation estimates that around 86 percent â€œof the civil legal problems faced by low-income Americans in a given year receive inadequate or no legal help.â€? 1 This gap between the amount of assistance available and the amount of assistance needed is known as the Justice Gap. Legal Aid Organizations, like the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC), are continuously trying to adapt and close this justice gap. One way TLSC works to close the justice gap is through enlisting the help of pro bono attorneys to provide free legal help to low-income Texans. Attorneys from the Houston office of ExxonMobil are working together with staff of the Texas Legal Services Center to provide free help to low-income Texans on the TexasLawHelp website and close the justice gap. TexasLawHelp TLSC manages the Texas statewide legal aid website, TexasLawHelp.org. TexasLawHelp provides free and reliable legal information to low-income Texans. In 2017, TexasLawHelp had an estimated 1.6 million unique visitors, 8.7 million page views, and 1 million downloads of free forms and information. Live Chat and ExxonMobil Attorney Volunteers TLSC hosts a free Live Chat internet service on TexasLawHelp which provides free information, legal help, and resources to low-income Texans. When a user is on TexasLawHelp and needs help they can click a chat button to talk to a TLSC staff attorney or a volunteer. Year to date, the chat service has handled over 13,000 chats. ExxonMobil attorneys have been a huge part of this success and have contributed over 50 hours of valuable attorney time on this project in 2017 alone. ExxonMobil attorneys provide help on issues ranging from divorce to debt collection to property issues and more. Their legal expertise and practical knowledge has proved to be an invaluable asset to low-income Texans seeking free legal help on TexasLawHelp.
Legal Services Corporation. 2017. The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans. Prepared by NORC at the University of Chicago for Legal Services Corporation. Washington, DC, Page 14 https://www.lsc.gov/sites/default/files/images/TheJusticeGap-FullReport.pdf
Real People. Real Help. To provide a real example of ExxonMobil’s great work consider the case of User A. User A contacted the live chat service about issues concerning replacing a court-appointed attorney in a criminal case. The ExxonMobil attorney volunteer thoughtfully listened to what the user had to say, analyzed the situation, and quickly provided practical information the user could consider and the right place for the user to contact for more help. In fact, at the end of the chat the user said of the volunteer, “you have been more helpful than anyone I've contacted!” The volunteer’s thoughtful handling of the case put the user on the right path and encouraged them as they went forward. This is one small example of ExxonMobil’s positive impact on the live chat service and low -income Texans as a whole. Making Progress Happen Thanks to the efforts of the Houston office of ExxonMobil, Texans have access to more free legal help than ever before. TLSC and ExxonMobil have committed to growing this program to better serve the people of Texas and look forward to helping more in the future!