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UHLC’s Samantha Casas ’21 presented ATJ Law Student Pro Bono Award at New Lawyers Induction Ceremony

Samantha Casas ’21

Dec. 3, 2021 – Thousands of new attorneys were sworn in to the State Bar of Texas recently including 2021 UH Law Center graduate Samantha Casas, recipient of the Law Student Pro Bono Award.

Held on November 15, the Virtual New Lawyers Induction Ceremony welcomed the 2,147 lawyers who passed the July 2021 bar exam, according to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, the Honorable Nathan L. Hecht.

“This ceremony is a time for rejoicing for them, their wives, husbands, parents, children, and, of course, their creditors,” Hecht said. “All of us honor these men and women, lawyers at last.”

Hecht introduced each member of the Supreme Court of Texas. Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals the Honorable Sharon Keller introduced each member of the Court of Criminal Appeals, including Judge Mary Lou Keel, a 1985 graduate of the UH Law Center.

“On behalf of both courts, I want to thank the law schools across this great state––the deans and all of the staff––for what you’re doing through this very, very challenging time that we’ve been presented with over the past so many months dealing with COVID,” Supreme Court of Texas Justice Debra Lehrmann said.

“We know how challenging it is for all of you, and you’ve done such an excellent job. It is my extreme honor to recognize all of you today. Again, thank you for the great work you’ve done,” she said.

Presented by the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the ATJ Law Student Pro Bono Award “recognizes a student or recent graduate whose pro bono work has made a significant impact on the community.”

Supreme Court of Texas Justice Brett Busby presented Casas with the award, saying that she demonstrated “an extraordinary commitment to helping others and providing legal assistance to the less fortunate.”

The first lawyer in her family, Casas “individually spent more than 1,000 hours doing clinic and pro bono work throughout her years at the Law Center,” Busby said.

Casas said she credits the Law Center’s clinical programs for sparking her love for pro bono work, he said.

“Her first clients’ gratitude left a lasting impression,” Busby said. “She recalls, ‘He just kept saying how thankful he was over and over.’ He made it seem like I changed his whole world by

helping him start his own restaurant. I felt like I did not deserve that praise, all I did was draft, review, and file documents.”

“Samantha’s experience demonstrates how impactful pro bono work can be in the lives of our fellow Texans,” Busby said.

When Casas became president of CLEO, the Clinical and Lawyering Enrichment Organization, she “created positive change in how students viewed pro bono opportunities,” Busby said.

Casas transformed the organization’s focus from educating law students about the practical aspects of being lawyer to offering law students hands-on, practical experience through pro bono legal work with low-income clients, according to Busby.

UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes also congratulated Casas on receiving the ATJ Law Student Pro Bono Award, encouraging Casas to continue the “great work” she’s done so far.

Sylvia Borunda Firth, President of the State Bar of Texas, encouraged the new lawyers to seek mentors in this stage of their career. Not only that, she said they should also see who they could serve as well.

“It’s time to pay it forward,” Firth said. “You are the promising young members of our profession. The State Bar of Texas wants to help you prepare to be leaders not only in your field, but also ultimately of our bar.”

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