AUSTIN, Texas—The William Wayne Justice Center at The University of Texas School of Law, in collaboration with the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TATJC) and the eight other Texas law schools, has expanded a unique academic internship program that sends law students to low-income communities needing assistance.
As part of the Access to Justice Internship program, 14 students met with Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriett O’Neill.
In its second year of a two-year pilot program, the Access to Justice Internship (ATJI) has placed 14 law students in communities in South Texas and East Texas. The ATJI is funded this summer through a gift to TATJC from attorney and best-selling author John Grisham and a grant to The University of Texas School of Law’s Justice Center from the Texas Bar Foundation.
This year’s academic program began on May 18 with a presentation to the students by Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill at the Supreme Court of Texas in Austin. The students then participated in a two-day training program at university’s School of Law. The 14 students from Texas law schools are working full-time as interns for seven to 10 weeks with Lone Star Legal Aid, the South Texas Civil Rights Project, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in offices in Angleton, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Edinburg, Laredo, San Juan, Tyler and Weslaco.
The program has grown from when it began last year with eight law students working in low-income communities in South Texas only. The program was conceived by the Law School Deans’ Advisory Committee for the TATJC.
“The Law School Access to Justice Internship Program has proven to be an exceptional success,” said Jim Sales, a 1960 graduate of the university’s law school, chairman of the TAJC and former State Bar of Texas president.
“The students not only have the opportunity to witness first hand the overwhelming legal problems facing low-income and poor Texans, but they also participate as more ‘boots on the ground,’ in helping deliver legal services to the less fortunate of our communities,” Sales said. “We are grateful to the Texas law schools for making this happen.”
The internship program is taught by two faculty members with extensive clinical experience: Catherine Greene Burnett, a vice president, associate dean and professor at South Texas College of Law, and Eden Harrington, a clinical professor and director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law at The University of Texas School of Law. Additional instructors include David Hall (Texas RioGrande Legal Aid), Jim Harrington (Texas Civil Rights Project), Ann Kloeckner (State Bar of Texas), Jeana Lungwitz (University of Texas School of Law), Erica Schommer, 2003 graduate (Texas RioGrande Legal Aid), and Larry Spain (Texas Tech School of Law).
The nine law schools sponsoring the program include Baylor Law School; St. Mary’s University School of Law; Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law; South Texas College of Law; Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law; Texas Tech University School of Law; Texas Wesleyan School of Law; The University of Houston Law Center; and The University of Texas School of Law.
Editors: A photograph (5MB) of the 14 students with Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriett O’Neill is available online.
For more information contact: Laura Castro, School of Law, 512-232-1229; Nick Doughty, Justice Center for Public Interest Law, School of Law, 512-232-6277.