The 2020 Pro Bono Spring Break applications will be available near the end of January 2020. Read about the experiences of our 2019 participants below.
The TAJC deeply appreciates our Texas law schools, legal aid programs, and interested law students who make the PBSB program possible. In 2019, 106 applications were received and 72 students were placed to work at legal aid programs across the state. There were over 90 placements available: 34 different placement options for the week of March 11-15, and 24 placement options for the week of March 18-22.
Check out the reimbursement parameters and instructions for participants.
During Pro Bono Spring Break, law students and supervising faculty members travel across the state volunteering their time to help low-income Texans resolve their civil legal problems.
Pro Bono Spring Break is a great opportunity for law students to practice and apply legal skills learned in the classroom, including advocacy, client interviewing, and supervised legal decision-making. It also exposes future lawyers to the dire legal and financial circumstances faced by low-income people in Texas and raises awareness about access to justice issues. At the same time, legal service providers receive a team of skilled and well-supervised volunteers who can leverage the provider’s time and relieve some of their workload.
Law students receive training and supervision by both law school faculty members and legal services staff. Students are placed with a legal services provider within driving distance of their law school. Partcipating organizations in the past include: Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence, American Gateways, Catholic Charities of Dallas, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Project, Disability Rights Texas, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, KIND Kids in Need of Defense, Legal Hospice of Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, Mosaic Family Services, Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, RAICES, and Texas Civil Rights Project.
To facilitate camaraderie and the formation of lifelong friendships, students carpool in groups of four to each location. And, depending on the placement, students share a hotel room with one other person.
Students attend a webinar orientation during the week prior to Spring Break and work at least 8 hours per day on projects Monday through Thursday with a half day on Friday to allow for travel back to their respective law schools. Students are expected to write a short essay upon their return describing their experiences.
Stories From Participants in Pro Bono Spring Break 2019:
Christina Cormier, Thurgood Marshall, Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence (Houston), 1L
Domestic Abuse and Family law was not the original part of the plan that I wanted to go into. After seeing so many families and how they lean on us for help, it became imperative that I learn everything that AVDA had to give so that we can assist as many families as possible while I was there to assist. It is very important that hands on experience during law school are taken. It changes the dynamic or adds further reassurance as to why we are doing the things we are trying to do. We change the world through one client at a time. Thank you to everyone at the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TAJC) for building such a wonderful program and opportunity.
Samantha Franklin, South Texas College of Law Houston, Disability Rights Texas (Houston), 2L
I am so glad I participated in the 2019 Pro Bono Spring Break program. As a part-time law student working full-time, I don’t always have access to traditional internship opportunities; Pro Bono Spring Break was my first exposure. Working with Disability Rights Texas, I learned the ins and outs of what a guardianship means to a disabled individual, and how important it is to find an alternative when possible.
Mavrik Gfeller, UNT Dallas College of Law, Mosaic Family Services (Dallas), 1L
The most exciting part of my week with Mosaic was the opportunity to sit in on my first client interview. There is a complete shift in working with the clients... the focus is on the success of the client. There is a definite shift from working for myself [in my law classes] to working for others.
Matthew Hill, South Texas College of Law Houston, Texas Legal Services Center (Austin), 1L
Overall, this was a good experience because it provided a real life look at the immense difficulties that low-income Texans can face in dealing with the legal system. It was fascinating to get out of the classroom and work with actual legal issues.
Ben Manthey, SMU Dedman School of Law, Legal Hospice of Texas (Dallas), 3L
Over the course of my week at LHT, I learned that access to Social Security benefits can be a major lifeline for the clients I saw. This is because the benefits provide financial support that allows clients to take care of themselves and thereby preserve a foundation of health necessary to minimizing the impact of HIV on their lives. In assisting each of the clients with their Social Security applications or appeals, I felt I was helping protect each client’s future wellness. Working with low-income Texans at LHT taught me that there is a human element to the law that is often hard to communicate in classroom lectures or case readings. After my week at LHT, I came to appreciate that lawyers should develop their bedside manners just as doctors are required to do.
Sky Schoolfield, Baylor Law School, Texas Advocacy Project (Austin), 1L
Preparing for law school classes is different from working with a pro bono organization because you can see that the work you do truly matters. … Working, even for just a week, with a pro bono organization will reinvigorate that passion and remind you why you wanted to be a lawyer. My time with the Texas Advocacy Project was invaluable. Every law student should work with a pro bono organization at least once. It is an inspiring opportunity not only to get real world experience, but to help people. Texas has so many people in need, and our role as (future) lawyers is to advocate for those that need it.
Sidrah Syed, South Texas College of Law Houston, The Beacon/Beacon Law (Houston), 2L
One of the most surprising things about working with the Beacon was just how terrifying poverty is and what a ruthless cycle it creates. Although I have heard how endless the cycle of poverty is, to truly see it and experience it through the paperwork we were given made me realize how important it is for our society to help these low-income individuals. I couldn’t have asked for a better spring break and am so grateful for this experience that has truly helped me better understand how Pro Bono organizations and … the attorneys in this field work. The satisfaction I felt, knowing how much work I had accomplished, how much information I had learned, after walking out of the office on Friday afternoon was almost an unparalleled feeling that I hope so many future law students will also feel and understand.
Kameron Smith, Texas A&M, Legal Aid of North West Texas (Fort Worth), 2L
I have been in the legal field for around 4 years now, and I have never had clients as grateful as the clients that came to us for help at Legal Aid. I believe this experience provided me with a very important perspective. Working with Legal Aid allowed me to take a step back and gain a more cooperative outlook with respect to legal issues and exposed me to the reality that a majority of individuals are simply unaware of their rights and how to navigate the court systems. The experience made me appreciate how far I’ve come with respect to my knowledge and my ability to help people that would otherwise be helpless. I won’t soon forget how appreciative the clients were that they had someone in their corner.
For more information about the Access to Justice Pro Bono Spring Break program, contact Catherine Galloway at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.427.1892.