The San Antonio Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) was established in 1967 to provide San Antonio residents free referrals to private attorneys. Sylvia Hernandez has managed the LRS for 45 years and will be retiring December 31, 2020. San Antonio Bar Association (SABA) President, David Evans says, “Sylvia has managed and expanded the LRS to the well-regarded program it is today. We are forever grateful for her dedication and commitment to the Bar.”
In 1975, Sylvia was a full-time at Southwest Texas University, (now known as Texas State University) and worked as a part-time secretary for attorney Patrick J. Pape. Soon after, Pape became the President-Elect for SABA and recommended Sylvia for a full-time position managing the Lawyer Referral Service.
“I remember my first interview with then SABA Executive Director Jimmy Allison. He was wearing a baby-blue, three-piece suit.” recalls Sylvia. Sylvia decided the job offer was too good to pass up and switched to full-time employment and part-time college student. Sylvia did eventually complete her criminal justice degree which she notes was a complement to her work at the LRS.
Since 1975, the LRS back office has evolved from referrals made from typed Rolodex cards to an online system that allows San Antonio residents to use a custom questionnaire to receive an instant match to an attorney who can help them. “We used to have these carbon copies and referrals would take a few days because I would mail copies to the callers and attorneys” shares Sylvia, “and now, users can receive an attorney referral at the push of a button.”
The LRS program is sustained by the trusted attorney members and supported by the 10% referral fee for each retained case referral made through the program. Sylvia’s most exciting moment as LRS Director was when the program received a $99K referral fee from a nearly million-dollar product liability case. “The LRS is a valuable service to residents because not everyone knows a lawyer.” Said Sylvia.
Since 1981, the LRS program has partnered with the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) to provide low-bono legal services to senior citizens in the San Antonio area. A small cadre of volunteer LRS attorneys provide services in the practice areas of estate planning, probate, guardianship, family law, and bankruptcy. “The cases are straight-forward and the clients are generally well prepared and nice. We have some really seasoned attorneys who help with this program.” Sylvia says. “For a variety of reasons, not all attorneys can commit to a pure pro bono case– our program of low-bono serves a population that doesn’t qualify for pro bono but also cannot afford regular retail rates. It is a win-win for the client and attorneys.”
In her civic work, Sylvia served as a Probation Volunteer and committee secretary for the local juvenile detention center and was recognized with a Volunteer Award in 1994. She was recognized by the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association as the 1995 recipient of the Liberty Bell Award, an award presented to a non-lawyer who is significantly engaged in community service that promotes a better understanding and appreciation of the law.
Sylvia is a San Antonio native and attended Brackenridge High School. She has been married to her high school sweetheart husband, Julio, for 31 years. Sylvia plans to pursue her many passions, including horse racing. “We have a yearling that we bought at a horse sale. He is in training right now and will be ready to race next year.” Sylvia is also an avid DIY’er and will work on some home renovations and maybe even some house flipping. “I learned how to plaster walls, set tile, do plumbing, and electrical maintenance from my dad. I am really comfortable in the aisles of Home Depot!” she explains.
President Evans concludes “If we know anything about Sylvia, we know that she will remain busy and engaged in our community.”
“Life is fulfilling when I am helping people. It is what I love best,” says Sylvia.
SABA will host an online Office Hours with Sylvia Hernandez on December 17 at 4:30-5:00 PM on Zoom here. Please join us to share your best wishes for Sylvia.
SIGN A TRIBUTE CARD FOR SYLVIA!
Sign the virtual card - all messages will be delivered to Sylvia after the event.
General best wishes are appreciated, but if you can contribute a particular moment, story or memory about the recipient, that makes a great tribute. You can even add a photo! Please note that your tribute message is only viewable to other contributors.
Tributes will be accepted through December 16 at NOON.
Have questions or concerns, contact Ashley Benson at email@example.com or 210-227-0870.