Pro Bono Representation Ends Financial Nightmare
A year ago, 73-year-old Auda Hamilton would never have imagined herself speaking to a large group of attorneys about the benefits of pro bono and how she was rescued from mounting debt and given a fresh financial start in life, but that is exactly what she did this summer! On July 9, Auda told her story to a room full of lawyers at the monthly Smith County Bar Association CLE presentation.
After her husband died of cancer and she herself was diagnosed with two brain tumors, Auda was forced to take medical retirement from her job, where she had been happily employed for over 23 years. Although Auda had always been able to work through any financial struggles that came her way in the past, a combination of the recession and her daughter's own financial troubles caused Auda to take on more and more credit card debt, resulting in a lower credit limit on her card and an increase in her interest rate to over 30%.
Although Auda had previously considered herself an "unlikely candidate for legal aid," and did not even know that Lone Star Legal Aid existed until her daughter told her about the firm, she reluctantly made application last October for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection. Auda was referred to volunteer attorney Joe K. Thigpen of Thigpen & Raney, P.C. in Tyler. She told members of the Smith County Bar exactly how she felt when she first walked into Mr. Thigpen's office. " . . .[t]hat day was one of the worst days of my life. I felt like a failure and now a beggar." However, she was pleasantly surprised by the graciousness shown to her by Mr. Thigpen and his staff, and the fact that she was a "pro bono case" was never mentioned.
Auda relayed that her entire experience with Pro Bono Coordinator Dana Bias and Lone Star Legal Aid, and Joe Thigpen and his staff, was "the best possible thing that could have happened to me under the circumstances." She expressed how truly grateful she was and continues to be for the "caring, timely, and informed&x22; help that she received, providing her with mental and financial relief, as well as a second chance at life at 73. The stress of mounting debt, and its debilitating effect on her health, was gone! She urged the audience of lawyers to consider volunteering as her attorney had done, so that someone else in need could receive a similar life-transforming experience.
Auda"s story is but one of many success stories achieved through the partnership between LSLA and the Smith County Bar Foundation Volunteer Attorney Program, as well as other similar collaborations with members of the private bar throughout the LSLA service area.