Law students and law schools are a critical component of increasing access to justice and ensuring low-income Texans receive assistance with their civil legal needs. Exposing law students to the civil legal needs of low-income people while they are still in school raises the likelihood that they will help low-income populations through pro bono work or employment at a legal aid office after graduation. Further, raising awareness among students about the critical shortage of funds for legal aid increases the chance that they will are more likely to contribute money and advocate for increased funding for access to justice initiatives.
With the help of law school students, faculty, and staff, the Commission partners with each Texas law school to expand the delivery of legal services in Texas. Through internships and pro bono opportunities, law students can help many people in need. The Commission also works with law schools to develop curriculum that exposes students to access to justice issues and collaborates with legal educators to provide training to both law students and the broader legal community.
ATJ Internship Program
The Access to Justice Internship Program provides a unique opportunity for law students to participate in a summer internship with non-profit providers of civil legal services in rural areas. These internships educate students about the civil legal needs of low-income people in underserved communities and provide future lawyers with skills to address these problems. The Summer 2015 ATJ Internship application period is open until March 31, 2015. Visit our ATJ Internship Program page to learn more and apply.
The Commission believes that educating law students about access to justice issues should be a fundamental component of their education. Minor curriculum changes can be easily made to highlight access to justice issues. For example, law school curriculum tends to describe cases in which the litigants are represented by a lawyer on each side. Discussing the same legal principle by using a case that involves an indigent litigant or a self-represented litigant opens the door to a conversation on access to justice issues. Students begin to think about what it would be like for someone to navigate the judicial system without an attorney or without the funds to pay the cost associated with filing the law suit. We regularly seek out and promote innovative ways to bring access to justice issues to students.
Law Student Pro Bono College
In 2013, the State Bar of Texas established the Law Student Pro Bono College to recognize law students who performed 50 or more hours of pro bono work within the year. To be admitted to the Law Student Pro Bono College, students must:
1. Be enrolled in a Texas law school and be in good academic standing;
2. Complete at least 50 hours of pro bono work per year (September 1 – August 31); and
3. Complete an application documenting all hours performed.
For more information, visit the Pro Bono College page on the State Bar of Texas.