SALSA‘s clients benefit from the time and dedication of our incredible volunteer corps. While some volunteers take on client representation directly, others serve as mentors, providing valuable practice tips and subject matter expertise to those golden-hearted volunteers who help clients outside of their regular practice area. One such dedicated volunteer mentor is Mr. Carl Werner, a board-certified estate planning attorney who serves as one of SALSA’s Wills Clinic Mentors.
Carl didn’t start his career in law. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in education with a specialization in English and Speech, he became a high school teacher. Although he enjoyed his time teaching high school, he found that it would not support his family, so he opted for another career path – serving as a petroleum landman, which eventually led him to the study of law. After graduating with honors from the University of Houston Law Center, Carl moved to San Antonio in 1994, to work with Cox and Smith, now Dykema. In 2007, Carl began his solo practice, which has grown into Carl Werner & Associates, a successful practice with focus in Wills, Estates, Trusts, and Probate.
Carl began assisting as a Mentor for the Wills Clinic in 1996 after being recruited by a colleague. The group of Wills Mentors began as an informal cohort and grew into a formal committee over the past five years, which has crafted Will and ancillary document forms specifically for SALSA’s Wills Clinic with the client populations in mind. At SALSA’s traditional in-person Wills Clinics, Carl enjoyed walking around the room and assisting volunteer attorneys with unique questions that could be answered on the spot.
When COVID began and in-person clinics were no longer feasible, Carl sprang to action to create recorded training videos for volunteer attorneys assisting with SALSA’s COVID-19 Wills for Frontline Healthcare Workers Program. His training videos were available to more than 300 attorneys for that program alone, which enabled document drafting for hundreds of frontline healthcare workers. As the pandemic continues, Carl has recorded updated Wills Clinic training videos so that SALSA’s volunteers can continue to help clients remotely for as long as is necessary until we can all be together again.
Although Carl misses the camaraderie of the in-person clinics, he finds the remote version of the Wills Clinic to be more focused with the adoption of designated volunteers and online mentor office hours and has found the transition from the in-person Wills Clinic to the remote Wills Clinic to be a smooth one. He encourages volunteer attorneys who have not yet participated in the Wills Clinic to participate at least once, even if it’s not their traditional practice area. As Carl says, “[the SALSA Wills Clinic] is a great experience which is why volunteers return every time.” The volunteer experience is made seamless because of the time and effort that Carl and our other Wills Mentors have put into making user-friendly forms and training videos, as well as providing follow-up guidance to volunteers during office hours. We appreciate Carl and his dedication to the success of this program!