Texas ATJ Commission Honors South Texas College of Law with Prestigious 2015 Law School Commitment to Service Award
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 12/9/2015, 12:34 p.m.
HOUSTON (Dec. 9, 2015) – For the second time in the past four years, the Texas Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission recently honored South Texas College of Law with its annual ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award. This prestigious recognition – open to all accredited law schools in the state – “honors a law school that has carried forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession by actively educating its students about access to justice issues.”
Trish McAllister, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said, “The Commission recognizes the commitment to the provision of legal services to the poor by South Texas College of Law as truly exceptional.”
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, a South Texas College of Law alumna, presented Donald Guter, president and dean of South Texas, with the award in front of an audience of 10,000 at the 2015 New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin.
“As a proud South Texas alumna, I am thrilled to present this award to the Law School for its innovative leadership, community engagement, and tradition of inspiring new generations of pro-bono leaders,” Guzman said. “Congratulations to Dean Guter and the faculty for working to open the courthouse doors for the most vulnerable Houstonians.”
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, a South Texas College of Law alumna, presents Donald Guter, South Texas president and dean, with the Texas Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission’s 2015 ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin earlier this month.
South Texas received the award in large part because of the innovative consolidation of its academic clinical program and pro-bono initiatives. After renovating an entire floor of the School in 2013, South Texas opened the state-of-the-art Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics – which pair Law School faculty and staff with students, who gain firsthand experience while learning about the challenges facing poor Texans in obtaining access to justice.
The School offers a wide variety of Civil Practice Clinics that provide free legal assistance for low-income and marginalized populations throughout the Houston metropolitan area. Teams of faculty, staff attorneys, paralegals and law students support clients in Civil Practice Clinics in the areas of child welfare, estate planning, basic and advanced family law, guardianship, probate, and veterans affairs. South Texas also offers Special Focus Clinics, which address access to justice, asylum and human trafficking, actual innocence, domestic violence, mediation, and intellectual property.
In addition to working in the Clinics, South Texas students volunteer their time in off-campus internships with a pro-bono focus. Participating students invest a minimum of 4,500 hours of public interest service at no cost to community organizations each year.
Based on the unbilled pro-bono service hours in both the Clinics and internships, South Texas students contribute more than $1,000,000 in free legal service annually to the Houston community.
Last year, South Texas built upon its Clinic expansion by co-locating three national players in the campaign against human trafficking, the unprecedented rise in unaccompanied minors coming to Texas, and the special needs of immigrant children: Human Rights First, Kids in Need of Defense, and The Young Center. These three nonprofits occupy space directly adjacent to the School’s Clinics, which provide convenience and accessibility for clients and the attorneys and students working on their behalf.