Celestina L. Contreras

Law Clinic Professor

Contreras_Celestina1

“My life as a lawyer has been inspired by a quote from Isaiah 1:17 (New International Version): ‘Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.’”

Get to Know Celestina L. Contreras

What drew you to the law?

As a minority growing up in poverty, I learned very early that life was harsh and unjust. No satisfactory answers were given when I asked why certain conditions were the way they were, such as segregation or oppression. As laws were passed to desegregate or to relieve oppression, my eyes were opened to the benefits of an education and the law. Believing that education and the law were the keys to help those being treated unjustly, initially my goal was to become a social worker. However, as my education continued, I felt more could be accomplished as a lawyer in order to make more permanent improvements in my clients’ lives.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I see my position as a professor in the Family Law and Benefits Clinic as one that is a win-win-win experience for those involved. I win in that I get to teach, practice law and share my legal experience with students who are eager to learn the law. The students win in that they have the opportunity to learn how to actually practice law and help those who cannot afford to retain an attorney. Our clinic clients win in that they are able to have access to justice by having their legal issues resolved with the help of our students.

What do you hope students gain from your courses?

My hope is that my students will learn not only how to practice law but to have compassion for their clients. Students gain hands-on experience with real clients with real legal problems. The students also learn to analyze the legal issues, determine what steps are needed to resolve the issues and actually go to court to ensure that court orders are granted that will alleviate their client’s problems.

What did you do prior to entering academia?

I represented victims of family violence in family law cases through my employment at Legal Aid of North Texas in Dallas and, prior to that, Legal Aid of Central Texas in Austin.

What are you passionate about outside of the law?

My family. My son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson mean the world to me, plus I have my extended family that I love to visit.

Publications

My publications are available on BePress SelectedWorks™.

Presentations

Class presentations – PowerPoints:

  • Family Violence Awareness
  • Effects of Family Violence on Children
  • Family Law Suits: Navigating the family lawsuit without getting lost along the way!

Law school presentations:

  • Moderated panel discussion on domestic violence awareness at luncheon hosted by Texas A&M Law School Family Law Student Association (Oct. 2014)
  • Panel member/speaker, “It’s Not Justice If It’s Not Equal – Preserving Access to Civil Legal Aid,” hosted by the Texas A&M Law School American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (Oct. 2014)
  • Panel member/speaker regarding representing victims of family violence for Texas Wesleyan School of Law Delta Theta Phi organization (March 2007)

Expertise

  • Family law
  • Domestic violence

Courses

  • Family Law and Benefits Clinic

Academic Experience

  • Family Law and Benefits Clinic Professor
    Texas A&M University School of Law (Aug. 13, 2013-present)
  • Law Clinic Professor
    Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (Jan. 2003-Aug. 12, 2013)
  • Adjunct Professor
    Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (2000-2002)

Education

  • J.D., University of Texas School of Law, Austin
  • B.A., University of Texas at San Antonio

Other Professional Activities

  • Board of Directors, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
  • Tarrant County Bar Association
  • Tarrant County Family Law Bar Association
  • Dallas County Bar Association
  • Dallas County Family Law Bar Association
  • State Bar of Texas
  • State Bar of Texas, Family Law Section
  • State Bar of Texas, Poverty Law Section
  • State Bar of Texas, Minority Section
  • American Bar Association
  • American Bar Association, Family Law Section