by Alicia Hernandez
Lisa Blue Baron and Mike Kaeske, faithful advocates for the less fortunate, are the 2011-2012 Equal Access Campaign’s lead donors with their gift of $50,000 to this year’s campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program.
Equality and justice for all are words to live by for Ms. Blue Baron and Mr. Kaeske. Gifted trial attorneys who could seek any calling within the legal profession, Ms. Blue Baron and Mr. Kaeske have dedicated their professional lives to ensuring that all people receive the respect and dignity they deserve regardless of their ability to pay for a lawyer. Their gift to DVAP extends their helping hands and strong convictions about equal access to the working moms, children, elderly, and veterans who would simply be locked out of the justice system but for programs like DVAP and supporters like Ms. Blue Baron and Mr. Kaeske.
Ms. Blue Baron, a long-time supporter of pro bono legal aid to the poor, has donated over $293,000 to DVAP over nearly 20 years. A true believer, financial support is not her only contribution to the program. She uses her Spanish-speaking skills to interview clients at the West Dallas Legal Clinic, teach pro se divorce classes, and help Spanish-speaking clients finalize their family law cases. She also launched Baron and Budd’s pro bono program while she was at the firm.
Baron & Budd was where Ms. Blue Baron and colleague and friend Mike Kaeske first joined forces, devoting their professional lives, along with Blue Baron’s late husband, Fred Baron, to representing seriously injured victims and their families. Mr. Kaeske, like Ms. Blue Baron, developed into a nationally recognized trial attorney who secured significant verdicts for clients suffering from radiation exposure, leukemia and other cancers.
Teaming up again in more recent years, Ms. Blue Baron and Mr. Kaeske have continued their professional endeavors, and, now, they have chosen to extend their collaboration to include a commitment to legal aid to the poor.
“Government funding for legal aid continues to drop while the need for pro bono grows. The poor in our community are counting on lawyers like us to keep access to justice alive,” said Ms. Blue Baron of Baron and Blue.
And Ms. Blue Baron is right. The downward economic cycle that plagues us all has resulted in significant decreases in funding for legal aid to the poor while the poverty population explodes.
Federal funding for legal aid was cut last year and additional cuts loom on the horizon while Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts’ funding and other resources spiral downward. U.S. Census figures released on September 13 indicate that one in six Americans or 46.2 million (15.1 percent) people live in poverty. Revised statistics released on November 9 show a poverty high of 49.1 million or 16 percent of Americans living in poverty, with the main causes being rising medical, commuting, and child care costs. In Dallas, the poverty statistics are even more staggering. Twenty-five percent of people living in Dallas County qualify for free legal help from DVAP.
“DVAP’s mission is our mission—to open doors, right wrongs, and change lives,” said Mike Kaeske of The Kaeske Law Firm. “First and foremost, we want to help people, but we also hope that our gift will inspire others to help too.”
The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is the joint pro bono program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. For more information on the Campaign for Equal Access or the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, please contact Alicia Hernandez at (214) 220-7499 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Recognition levels and donor benefits are available at www.dvapcampaign.org. All individual donors at the $1000 level and above and all firm and corporate donors at the $5,000 level and above will be recognized in an ad in the Dallas Morning News during the week of December 20, 2011, and in Texas Lawyer in January or February 2012.
Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at email@example.com.