Pro Bono Spring Break

The application period for the Spring 2018 Pro Bono Spring Break program has closed.

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. Here are a few comments from students who participated in Pro Bono Spring Break 2018:

Gabriel Saenz, St. Mary’s School of Law, RAICES (Fort Worth), 1L

Dear Texas Access to Justice Commission, you have likewise provided me with an opportunity to change my world… This internship provided me a breath of fresh air. It reaffirmed that I belonged here. That I belong in law school and that I can be successful in this profession. Additionally, I will continue to pay it forward and open a door for someone like you did for me. From my family and myself, gracias.

Sean Doyle, University of Texas School of Law, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (Dallas), 3L

My main takeaway from this experience is that our legal system, despite offering equitable results for much of society, is not designed to take into account the unique situation—in terms of both obstacles and needs—of the more economically disadvantaged among our society… LANWT is both impactful and necessary in bridging this gap for so many people in its area of service.

Teresa Lakho, South Texas College of Law, Beacon Law, 2L

Spring break week for me was more than taking a week of vacation from work to work, it was about using my knowledge and insight to lend a helping hand to a part of the community that seems to be forgotten about. I am forever changed and grateful for the Pro Bono opportunity I was given by the Texas Access to Justice Commission during Spring Break 2018.

Brandon Ihle, Texas Tech School of Law, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, 1L

The purpose of a legal system is to provide a systematic, orderly, and predictable mechanism for resolving disagreements. However, the underlying purpose for the rule of law requires elements of civility, reason, fairness and justice. This experience showed me that pro bono volunteers do not just provide legal assistance, but instead that they make a lasting impression on people’s lives. This was an amazing experience, and an experience that I believe should be required of every single law student.

Mikhaela Stavrinou, South Texas College of Law Houston, Beacon Law, 1L

If you want real legal experience, participate in the Pro Bono Spring Break program. It will humanize the legal profession and show the personal side to the otherwise black letter law we tend to see in law school.

Jonathan McKinney, South Texas College of Law, Houston Volunteer Lawyers, 1L

Overall, my experience through this program was immeasurably valuable to me… I enjoyed every part of the process from getting to know the staff attorneys, seeing the offices, getting a feel for what happens in a real law office, and helping the clients… There is nothing else in retrospect that I think I would have rather done with my time than work with HVL and I intend to return to them for more pro-bono work as soon as I find the time.

Samuel Hughey, SMU Dedman School of Law, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (McKinney), 2L

I naively had my doubts of whether the pro bono office had anything to teach me. Simply put: I was wrong, dead wrong. I sincerely believe I learned more about the legal profession in the one week I spent volunteering than I did in my entire time year working as a paralegal and my 1L year combined.

 

For more information about the Access to Justice Pro Bono Spring Break program, contact Catherine Galloway at catherine.galloway@texasatj.org or 512.427.1892.