Austin Hagood, Esq.
How long have you volunteered?
I became seriously involved in volunteering when I first joined the Boy Scouts, roughly 16 years ago. Through that program I was heavily involved in service projects that helped the Huntsville community, including Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, and my Eagle Scout project. After high school and into college, I continued volunteering in my church and with other community programs such as the Village of Promise. Finally, during law school I was involved in projects sponsored by the Public Interest Institute, and participated in the University of Alabama School of Law's Civil Law Clinic program, where I provided pro bono legal services as a third-year law student.
Why do you volunteer?
I believe that I have a duty to leave a positive impact on my community. Throughout my time volunteering, I have had the opportunity to see the power that a small investment of time can have on another's life. By freely volunteering time, attention, and expertise, I have found just one way that I can have this positive impact. Sometimes, simply listening to a person's legal concerns and their issues can have a profound effect, especially if such services are normally cost prohibitive or otherwise out of reach for that person.
What is your most memorable volunteer experience?
Recently, I obtained a pro bono matter from the MCVLP involving the conversion of a client's riding lawnmower. After a preliminary demand letter and negotiations, the parties agreed to settle the case and further agreed to settlement terms. Unfortunately, no one, including myself, had a good idea of how to actually move this large lawnmower to my client's possession. Ultimately, the case involved me personally driving this riding lawnmower through a neighborhood to my client's waiting trailer. I am sure that the image of a lawyer awkwardly learning to drive this lawnmower won't leave anyone's minds anytime soon.
What advice can you give other attorneys who are thinking about volunteering with the MCVLP?
My advice would be (especially for young lawyers like myself) to keep in mind that one of the most valuable things you can give to a pro bono client is to truly take on the role of counselor. In my experience, volunteering with the MCVLP requires that I go beyond merely addressing the strictly legal issues of a case, but that I also truly give the client the opportunity to vent the frustrations that these legal issues have caused them. In addition to seeking legal assistance, most of these clients simply just want their voices heard. That, above all, is one of the most valuable services I think I have been able to provide.