Melissa Wilks is a solo practitioner with Wilks Law Office PLLC.
What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I started doing pro bono work as soon as I was licensed in 2012. I take family law cases through Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and the Tarrant County Bar Association Pro Bono Programs. I am also very involved with Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans Tarrant County Chapter and take immigration cases through that organization.
Why is pro bono important to you?
Pro bono is important to me for a number of reasons – it is a way for me to give back to my community; it reminds me of how fortunate I am; it keeps me grounded; it connects me with people that I would not normally be connected with; and it has connected me with other like-minded, good attorneys with hearts for service.
What have you learned from doing pro bono?
My first court case as a newly-licensed attorney was a pro bono divorce. It was a simple case – no kids and no property – but it gave me the confidence to do future court appearances in a practice area I had not planned on getting into.
What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
For any attorney thinking of taking on a pro bono case for the first time, I would say go for it! Getting involved with my local bar association’s pro bono program, especially as a new attorney, was an excellent way to learn new skills and meet new people.
Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
A pro bono case that stands out to me was one in which I represented a disabled spouse in her divorce case. She was a victim of domestic violence, which included decades of mental and physical abuse. As a result, she was terrified of facing her spouse in court. I was most proud of the outcome of this case not because I was able to get her the relief she was entitled to under the law, but because my confidence bolstered her and gave her encouragement when she needed it most. (But the settlement she got was definitely an added bonus!)