Pro Bono Profile: Fish & Richardson Principal Sushil Iyer Recognized as Volunteer of the Month by Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program

In April, Principal Sushil Iyer was recognized by the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program as their Volunteer of the Month in recognition of his continued commitment to partner with the organization to offer pro bono legal services.

DVAP’s mission is to increase and enhance pro bono legal services to low-income community members. DVAP coordinates representation for various legal services including employment, housing, probate, and wills.

“Fish has partnered with DVAP for more than a decade to provide advice and representation to clients in needs of free counsel. DVAP is a terrific partner — training and supporting attorneys and then connecting them with great opportunities to help people in our community in need of legal service,” said Fish Principal and the Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney of the Dallas Office, Bret T. Winterle. “I applaud Sushil on this recognition, as well as all the Fish attorneys who dedicate their time and professional skills to serve others.”

Having lived in the Dallas area since 2012, Sushil became involved with DVAP to give back to the community that has been home for the last 10+ years. Reflecting on his work in pro bono and specifically with DVAP, Sushil shared how he got involved, the motivation behind his pro bono practice, and the impact it makes on him.

Q: How did you first get involved with pro bono work?

A: Unexpectedly. I was on Facebook one day, and I saw a post from a woman in a local community page seeking help with filing for divorce. There was something about her post that spoke to me, so I messaged her to learn more. We ended up meeting at the local library for two hours to talk and go through the process of filing the divorce paperwork. By the end of our meeting, we had finished the paperwork, and she started to cry. As it turns out, she had been separated from her husband for a decade and had wanted to file for divorce many years prior but felt that she didn’t have the resources to do so. I realized she was not the only one in this position, and I felt a responsibility to continue helping in this way.

Q: Will you tell us more about a case that had a profound impact on you?

A: Honestly, that very first case helping a fellow community member to file for divorce. I had not appreciated how much of a mental barrier I had helped her overcome by just sitting with her and walking her through paperwork. As we parted ways, she gave me the biggest, warmest hug. I think about that meeting often and how it propelled me into this work.

Q: What type of pro bono cases do you handle?

A: Right now, I assist with matters of divorce, wills, and power of attorney. DVAP gives me all the tools I need to handle these types of cases, which I appreciate since there is no room for error. These are people’s lives that I’m impacting, and I want to make sure I treat each case with the same respect and attention that I dedicate to my cases in my patent prosecution practice.

Q: What is an unexpected benefit you have received from doing pro bono work?

A: It’s the genuine, heartfelt gratitude that people feel when you assist them. Doing pro bono work allows me to help people with filing for divorce, preparing a will, or designating a power of attorney. Those are important, but often overwhelming, life steps that make a big impact, so having the opportunity to give back and do good for my community is an added benefit.

Q: How has pro bono work contributed to both your professional and personal fulfillment?

A: Professionally, I get time to bill and hours that count towards my overall hour goals. As far as personal fulfillment goes, working pro bono cases is a constant reminder of the selfless assistance I received over the course of my life and how that helped me grow to where I am today. I feel an obligation now to return that goodwill to the world and hopefully better others. Furthermore, the pro bono work I do just makes me a better person by grounding me, humbling me, and reminding me of my own privilege.

Q: What is your favorite part of pro bono work?

A: At the end of a pro bono case, I get to see a final result for that client. Oftentimes that is a sense of excitement, relief, or peace. It makes all the work put into the case worthwhile for that moment alone.

Q: What advice would you give to a new attorney interested in getting more involved in pro bono?

A: Just do it. Don’t fear you might not know where to get help or that you don’t have all the right tools. If you are offered the opportunity, commit your time and the resources will come to you. Don’t wait for the “right” opportunity; everything will fall into place once you take the leap of faith and get involved in the first place.

Providing pro bono legal services is a privilege and responsibility that Fish attorneys take seriously. In 2022, Fish attorneys and staff completed over 20,000 hours of pro bono work, resulting in significant and meaningful gains for clients in a wide range of areas including immigration, anti-human trafficking, civil rights, housing, education, and child advocacy. As a global law firm, we are committed to integrating pro bono work into our professional culture and proud of our ongoing efforts to broaden access to justice in our communities.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.