The Access to Justice Internship Program provides a unique opportunity for law students to participate in an internship with a legal aid organization. These internships educate students about the civil legal needs of low-income people and provide future lawyers with the skills to address these problems.
Each law student is supervised by accomplished lawyers and has the opportunity to provide direct legal services to low-income clients while receiving hands-on training and mentorship. Each supervising attorney provides their law students with a variety of experiences and assignments, including significant research and writing, which helps them learn about access to justice matters, legal decision-making, advocacy skills, attorney-client relationships, and legal institutions.
The internships are open to law school students from any law school throughout the country, but preference is given to applicants from Texas law schools. A stipend of $2500 is provided to every student to help defray the living expenses of the 200 hour commitment.
During 2016, fifteen students participated in the internship program. Here’s what some of them had to say about their experience:
Robert Turner Johnston, 1L, Thurgood Marshall School of Law
I will never forget my time working as an intern at Lone Star Legal Aid...Working [there] has given me a diverse introduction into non-profit legal work. I was able to gain valuable legal experience, while helping hundreds of low-income Texans recover from the tragic floods of 2016. Unfortunately, we were not able to help everyone, and certainly not in every way we wished we could. There's just not enough funding. I will carry this experience with me as I pursue a path into public office - ever reminding me of our underrepresented citizens who deserve a stronger voice in the public arena.
Stephanie Harlien, 1L, St. Mary's University School of Law
This internship experience, first and foremost, affirmed my desire to work in public interest upon graduation and passing the bar exam. This internship was one of the most rewarding experiences I have endured. My time at [Family Violence Prevention Services] was filled with numerous hugs and tears and hours of hard work. However, during the course of my 400+ hours, one client truly stood out. I had done her intake application, the first step in the process, so I knew her from the beginning before we had even met face-to-face. I met with her for the initial client meeting. I drafted her pleadings for a protective order and a divorce, and I helped her write an affidavit documenting the history of the abuse she endured...I helped draft and gather discovery for her case, and I helped my supervisor prepare for her hearings. After the judge announced the order at the final hearing, the client looked so elated, so filled with joy that words could not describe her emotions at that time. She was crying and hugging me, saying how grateful she was. I really did not think I made that much of a difference, seeing as how I was not an attorney on her case, merely a lowly attorney. This experience allowed me to see the impact I could have on clients such as her. I made such a difference in her life, and I do not think that feeling or memory will ever leave me.
Diana Melendez, 1L, University of Houston Law Center
I had such a wonderful experience this summer that I would definitely recommend students to work at a nonprofit for a summer and, particularly the [Equal Justice Center], if they are interested in serving immigrant and low income communities. Working at a nonprofit and helping those that truly need the help is an experience that will stay with you for a very long time. It also demonstrates how important it is for our communities to support our legal nonprofits.
For more on the transformational experiences of law students working at legal aid organizations, watch our video “Access to Justice: A Journey for a Lifetime.”
The on-going success of the Access to Justice Internship Program is due to our generous donors sponsoring the students’ stipends. If you or your law firm is interested in sponsoring an ATJ internship, please contact Catherine Galloway at CGalloway@texasatj.org.
Applications for Spring 2017 are no longer being accepted. Applications for Summer 2017 will be posted in March 2017. Contact Staff Attorney Kristen Levins at Kristen.Levins@texasatj.org or 512.427.1855 for more information.