JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
MARBLE FALLS — Attorney Megan Klaeger saw the challenges many Highland Lakes residents faced, especially when it came to securing legal advice on a number of subjects. Not everyone has the financial means to hire a lawyer, but Klaeger didn’t want that to keep them from obtaining legal counsel.
Instead of hoping something would change, Klaeger became an agent of change.
She created the Highland Lakes Legal Center, which offers income-based legal counsel for people living in Burnet, Llano, Blanco, and San Saba counties. The center, located in Klaeger’s law office at 604 Ave. G, will focus on people needing help on matters related to family, Child Protective Services interventions, guardianships, probates, estate planning, occupational driver’s licenses, expunctions, non-disclosures, early release of probation, and modification of probation.
She said she is willing to at least have conversations on other legal matters.
Klaeger along with her father, Robert Klaeger, Rex Delmas, Natalie Fowler, and Brian Hicks make up the center’s roster of attorneys. Volunteer lawyers as well as people to help with administrative duties, marketing, fundraising, and other things are always welcome, she said.
The center is holding an open house 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at On the Rocks restaurant, 4401 Cottonwood Drive in Cottonwood Shores.
“We really want the opportunity to get to know people,” Klaeger said. “We also want to know how we can better serve the community.”
In matters of divorce, the center would help in divorce mediation for several hundred dollars.
“Which is way more affordable,” Klaeger said regarding the cost of mediation versus other avenues of divorce proceedings.
Part of the criteria for prospective center clients is they must pay at least half of the retainer before anyone meets with a center attorney. That retainer amount is determined by an individual’s finances, circumstances, dependents, and situations.
The center will follow the federal poverty guidelines in determining cost, Klaeger said.
“This isn’t just for people on welfare; it’s also for the working poor,” she said.
The working poor are those who make enough each month to pay expenses such as housing, utilities, and groceries, but little more, Klaeger said.
The center is based on a holistic model of service, which means it strives to help people find steady employment, obtain GEDs, or receive mental health treatment.
She noted the center isn’t designed to take clients away from other attorneys; it’s simply a way to allow people who are struggling with paying their everyday expenses to get legal help at rates that are easier on their pocketbooks.
“I don’t think being (financially challenged) means you shouldn’t be represented,” she said.
The hope is the center, which is accepting donations, will have enough to pay attorneys and paralegal salaries and eventually hire someone who can help clients improve their skills to get a better paying job.
Klaeger herself didn’t start out wanting to become an attorney. In fact, her dream was to work on Wall Street, which she did, but she discovered that wasn’t fulfilling. In conversations with her father, she decided helping people as a lawyer was what she wanted to do.
When she finished law school and was studying for the bar, her dad asked her to work with him in his office.
That’s when she moved back to the Highland Lakes and found she could contribute in many areas.
As Klaeger has come to know her neighbors, she has discovered that many people feel lost, frustrated, and helpless because they are in the midst of a legal battle and don’t know where to turn or who to trust. And they also may not have the money to obtain counsel.
“The more I do this work, the more I see the need for it,” she said.
Since opening the center in November, it has helped 30 people.
Call (830) 220-5045 or go to hllctx.org for more information.
“Call and set up an appointment to make sure it’s something we can help with,” Klaeger said.