Together with legal aid organizations, court staff and pro bono attorneys are on the front lines of civil legal aid. The Commission has created trainings and resources to help them further increase access to justice across the court system.
Legal Information vs. Legal Advice
Court clerks and other court personnel are often the first people a pro se litigant will meet at the court. Many courthouse staff members want to help pro se litigants in any way they ethically can, but the line between acceptable assistance and the unauthorized practice of law can be blurry.
Along with the Texas Office of Court Administration, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and the Texas Legal Services Center, the Commission has produced guidelines and an instruction manual for clerks and court personnel who work with self-represented litigants to educate them on the differences between providing legal information and providing legal advice. A copy of the manual is available here.
To provide a forum for in-person discussion of the information covered in the manual, staff from the Commission and the Texas Office of Court Administration are available to deliver a presentation entitled "Working with Pro Se Litigants: How to Give Legal Information without Giving Legal Advice” in your community. To schedule a presentation for your group, contact Kristen Levins at KLevins@texasatj.org or 512.427.1895.
Limited Scope Representation
Limited Scope Representation (LSR) is the practice of providing only specified legal services to a client, rather than handling all aspects of a client's case. This form of legal practice is also referred to as "unbundled legal services" or "unbundling." The Texas Access to Justice Commission's Limited Scope Representation subcommittee has produced a webinar and several CLEs to educate attorneys about how limited scope representation works and how to integrate it into their practices. For more information and resources, visit our Self-Represented Litigants page.
Including Access to Justice Topics in Continuing Legal Education Training for Lawyers
At continuing legal education (CLE) programs throughout the state, the Commission informs private attorneys about how they can help with access to justice issues. The topics covered in these presentations range from a basic overview course called "Making a Difference" to specialty topics like Limited Scope Representation.
The "Making a Difference" presentation is now included in the A Guide to the Basics of Law Practice training required for all newly licensed attorneys in Texas. This presentation focuses on the justice gap that gives rise to the great need for pro bono services by private attorneys. By educating newly licensed attorneys on the importance of pro bono services, the Commission strives to create and support a strong pro bono culture in Texas.