Texas Access to Justice Commission
June 29, 2009

Contact: Kimberly Schmitt 512-320-0099 or kschmitt@teajf.org

Texas Access to Justice Commission Recognizes Pro Bono Efforts of Corporate Counsel - Commission Presents the First Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award

(Austin, Texas) The Texas Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission honored ExxonMobil Counsel Peggy Montgomery of Houston with the first ATJ Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award at the State Bar Corporate Counsel and Business Law Annual Meeting held June 25 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O'Neill presented this new award on behalf of the Commission.

The ATJ Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award was established to recognize an outstanding corporate counsel attorney who actively provides pro bono legal services for the poor and promotes this pro bono culture within the corporate framework.

The Corporate Counsel and Business Law Sections of the State Bar of Texas are each contributing $1,000 to a pro bono program on behalf of Montgomery in honor of this award.

Montgomery began her participation in pro bono efforts at ExxonMobil 25 years ago, as a pro bono volunteer, handling cases, meeting with clients and inviting others to join her. Now as chair of the company's pro bono committee, she works to actively seek more pro bono projects and partnerships with legal aid providers and nonprofit organizations – often tackling new projects as a testing ground for future implementation. Montgomery is also a frequent speaker on panels across the state and in the U.S. discussing the importance of the role corporate counsel play in pro bono responsibility.

"Peggy Montgomery has become one of our State's leading advocates for encouraging pro bono participation among corporate counsel in Texas and elsewhere," said Harry Reasoner, Chair of the Access to Justice Commission. "She is an exceptional example of how corporate counsel can get involved in pro bono work and make a significant impact on providing legal services to the poor. ExxonMobil itself has been a leader in this area."

Montgomery's leadership roles in pro bono organizations are numerous, including her service as a Board member and former chair of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP). One of the major projects during her tenure was developing an HVLP/Texas C-Bar partnership, the Corporate Counsel Partnership Initiative, in which law firms and corporate law departments act as corporate counsel for non-profit organizations that serve low-income citizens. Montgomery is currently working with Texas C-Bar to identify other nonprofit legal services providers who can help expand this program to other Texas metropolitan areas.

As a board member of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Houston Chapter since 2006, she has worked to expand the recruitment of corporate counsel in Houston for pro bono activities, including a renewed focus on recruiting lawyers from smaller corporate law departments. She also has worked with members of San Antonio, Dallas and Austin chapters of ACC to develop more pro bono opportunities for corporate counsel.

Not just a leader in pro bono development, Montgomery also continues to handle pro bono cases herself and has consistently maintained at least one open pro bono case since joining the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program board in 1999.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission (www.TexasATJ.org) was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources for and awareness of legal aid, including the domestic violence Protective Order Kit, the Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and www.TexasLawHelp.org, an online resource for free legal information.