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County bar association restart will benefit attorneys and the community

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The Doña Ana County Bar Association (DACBA) is making a comeback.

After several years of inactivity, DACBA has begun regular monthly meetings for legal professionals throughout the county, said Robert Lara, an attorney associate with the Third Judicial District Court in Las Cruces who is also a member of the State Bar of New Mexico Board of Commissioners.

DACBA had 35 people at its August meeting in Las Cruces, Lara said. It was the first organized meeting of the local bar in several years, he said, as members elected officers and began discussing the services the association wants to provide to its members and to the community, he said.

The association includes attorneys practicing in both state and federal court and with agencies like the FBI and the IRS, as well as the district attorney’s (DA) and public defender’s (PD) offices.

DACBA helps to “develop collegiality within the local bar,” Lara said, which makes for better relationships among attorneys as they work to resolve civil and criminal issues in court, and it makes job changes easier if, for example, an attorney in private practice wants to join the DA’s office or the PD’s office or wants to move from one office to another.

Having an active local bar association also makes the area more attractive to attorneys from elsewhere who are considering moving their law practices to Las Cruces, he said.

“We have such a need for attorneys here,” Lara said.

The bar association also provides an organization that can advocate for attorneys and provide information to legislators and other elected officials and city, county and state officials.

And, DACBA will serve as a clearinghouse for continuing legal education for attorneys in southern New Mexico, Lara said. Monthly bar association meetings are already including continuing legal education (CLE) opportunities, he said, like a judge’s presentation on motions and other procedures in district court.

The meetings also will give DACBA members the opportunity to learn about and become more involved with community service to benefit local nonprofits, Lara said.

And, perhaps most importantly, a revitalized DACBA can educate the public about the services attorneys offer, Lara said, addressing questions like what resources are available to resolve your legal problem and when do you need to hire an attorney?

For example, an attorney might be able to help a client resolve issues with a landlord by connecting the client with community programs that are “better suited to solve your issue than a lawsuit,” Lara said. That might include helping the client obtain Covid-19 relief funds or veterans benefits, or helping him or her find alternative housing.

Lawyers can also assist with an individual’s financial and end-of-life planning or help a small-business owner apply for a loan or set up a health insurance plan, he said. And they offer many other services as well, Lara said, including some that members of the public might not even be aware of.

“Lawyers are here to help solve problems,” Lara said. “When you need help, there are options for you.”

Lara estimated that there are 350 to 400 attorneys working in Doña Ana County today.

Lara moved to the Las Cruces area in 2013. He lives with his wife in Santa Teresa.