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The Houston Bar Association is a nonprofit professional organization for attorneys. The HBA provides education, professional development, and service programs for both the legal profession and the community. The HBA was established in 1982 as a charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association. Since that time, the Foundation has supported programs that helped provide legal representation to the indigent, promote community understanding of our legal system and foster the administration of justice. Through the generosity of its many contributors, the Foundation has been able to make a difference in the greater Houston community.

Since its inception, the Foundation has grown rapidly in both membership and funding. HBF Fellows, who are the lifeblood of the Foundation, currently total 542, with 1052 Life Fellows and 414 Sustaining Life Fellows. Our endowment now stands at over $6 million. The annual support of our Fellows, together with the generosity of the individuals, law firms, corporations ands other organizations that regularly contribute to the Foundation, is helping us make steady progress toward our ultimate goal of becoming self-sustaining.

Each year, this committee organizes a drive to collect gently-used books for all reading levels for distribution to the Houston READ Commission and other social service agencies. The program also recruits and trains volunteers to participate in reading enrichment at schools and libraries. Attorneys, along with their families and law firm staff, have devoted thousands of volunteer hours to help with Texas Special Olympics events. Volunteers serve as judges, timekeepers, scorekeepers, and "buddies" to the special athletes who compete in events such as volleyball, softball, basketball, and swimming.

ver 4,000 attorneys volunteer their time to provide legal services in civil matters for Houston's needy citizens. This program helps those who cannot get help through other legal aid programs and is based on income eligibility. Special units within the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program handle family law, AIDS, problems of the elderly, and victims of domestic violence.

Houston Lawyer Referral Service can recommend a competent attorney who will set up an initial consultation for a reduced fee. Citizens can then decide if they would like to continue the services of that attorney at the attorney's regular fee scale. For income eligible citizens, HLRS has a panel of attorneys who agree to handle cases on a reduced fee scale. HLRS maintains a large panel of attorneys who handle all types of cases.

When problems threaten to become major, the Dispute Resolution Center offers citizens a free alternative to legal action. Services include community-based mediation, court-ordered mediation, arbitration, and moderated settlement conferences. Trained mediators and moderators bring together persons on both sides of an argument and help them reach an agreement before the problem leads to a costly lawsuit or violence.

Senior citizens have unique legal needs. Through this program, volunteer attorneys help income-eligible seniors with legal problems. A free Elder Law Handbook is available in English, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Spanish to answer many legal questions facing seniors and their caregivers. Many times, citizens need answers to legal questions or simple legal advice that can be given over the telephone in just a few moments. Or, citizens may need a referral to other legal or social service agencies. On the first and third Wednesday of each month, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., volunteer attorneys answer telephone calls from the public.

Believing that an informed electorate is vital to the efficient administration of justice, the HBA asks its members to respond to three polls concerning the judiciary. In election years, a candidate qualification poll is distributed before the primary, followed by a preference poll before the general election. In non-election years, a judicial evaluation poll gives HBA members the opportunity to evaluate the performance of judges based on various criteria. The results of each of these polls are released to the public through local news media. Results from the polls appear in an HBA ad in the Voter's Guide of the local newspaper just prior to elections.

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