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Access to Justice (ATJ) Internship Program

The Access to Justice Internship Program provides a unique opportunity for law students to participate in an internship with a legal aid office in Texas.  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 in addition to 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 can take place either during the school year or over the summer.  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.  The summer internship comes with a stipend of $500 per week to help defray the living expenses of the 10-week commitment.  The school-year internships will have a stipend of 2,500 for a one-semester, 200-hour commitment or $5,000 for a two-semester, 400-hour commitment.

In 2014, six students participated in the internship program in legal aid programs across the state.  Here's what some of them had to say about their experience:

Jared Horton, Baylor Law School, 1L
"One of the most important things that I took from this summer was a renewed sense of humility.  Each time a case was resolved, and I could had a hard copy of a file to an attorney and tell them that it was complete, I wanted to swell up with pride.  But each time I read a client's file and the facts of a case, I felt completely humbled and grateful for my opportunity to serve.  All in all, I would describe my summer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. as a life-changing experience.  I feel like every expectation that I held for my summer was easily fulfilled, and that the truly valuable experiences that I took from the internship were moments, events, and knowledge that I never could have imagined." 

Yvette Perez, Texas Tech University School of Law, 3L
"Throughout my whole clerkship, my supervising attorney always emphasized to me the importance of zealously fighting for clients with the goal of causing a ripple effect in the community.  I was taught to not put cases into their own individual boxes each with separate goals, but to instead look at them as an interconnecting chain all taken to serve one important goal-fostering equality amongst vulnerable communities.

These experiences have helped me realize the importance of services that help the poor.  I realize that attorneys possess the power to make a difference in their community because of the knowledge they possess. I realized that without organizations like [South Texas Civil Rights Project] and attorneys willing to use their talents to help others, people like Jose and Maria would fall in the cracks of the justice system."

Judith Rota, SMU - Dedman School of Law, 1L
"[My] experience allowed me to see the importance of legal aid first-hand.  Because of my internship, I was also able to see how vital to our society the legal aid is.  The legal aids need more attorneys and more interns to provide the much needed assistance to the needy in our society.  More help is needed from attorneys and law students to keep the services of the legal aid going."

 

The ongoing success of the Access to Justice Internship Program is due to our generous donors sponsoring the students' stipends.  If your law firm is or you are interested in sponsoring an ATJ internship, please contact Liza Levine at liza.levine@texasbar.com.

 

Please contact Program Attorney Kristen Levins by email (klevins@texasbar.com) or phone ( 512-427-1895)  for news about the most recent 2014 internship experience or how to get involved in the 2015 program.
 

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."

 
   
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