Aggie Law Students Serve Throughout Texas for Pro Bono Spring Break

April 19, 2017

Spring Break – for many students it means sun, sand or skiing. For a group of Texas A&M University School of Law students, it means the Aggie core value of service.

Pro Bono Spring Break students in LaredoAggie Law students in Laredo for Pro Bono Spring Break attend a Domestic Violence Coalition meeting

In partnership with the Texas Access to Justice CommissionPro Bono Spring Break” (#ProBono2017) program, 25 Aggie Law students traveled across the state volunteering their time to help low-income Texans resolve their civil legal problems.

Each student worked at least 36 hours over the spring break week with a legal aid organization under the supervision of staff attorneys, adding up to more than 900 hours of pro bono legal services provided to communities across Texas.

Texas Access to Justice Commission describes Pro Bono Spring Break as “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.”

In a win-win, the students gain practical experience and are able to apply their skills to work on behalf of actual clients, while the community receives much-needed legal assistance through the legal aid organizations the students support.

Students from all 10 Texas law schools participate. To build camaraderie among the future lawyers of Texas, the students carpool, often share a hotel room with one other person, and work together in the various legal aid placements.

The pro bono work of the law students was featured on the Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Facebook page and by the Texas Access to Justice Commission.

Rosalind Jeffers, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, who oversees the Equal Justice Program at Texas A&M School of Law, says pro bono service is a critical component of the school that not only benefits the community, but the students as well.

“By partnering with Texas Access to Justice, Texas A&M law students are able to spend spring break completing their pro bono requirement, while at the same time networking with other law students and members of the legal community,” says Jeffers. “This kind of alternative spring break places law students with legal services providers throughout the state of Texas. Students are trained and given the opportunity to receive valuable hands-on legal experience."

Alexia Quintero at Webb County District Court for Pro Bono Spring Break3L Alexia Quintero with Judge Melissa Joy Garcia, Webb County District Courts

A group of 15 Aggie law students worked in Laredo with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, contributing almost 500 hours of pro bono service. In addition to shadowing practicing attorneys and attending prove-ups at Social Justice Night Court at the Webb County Justice Center, the students assisted clients with expunctions, uncontested divorces and certain kinds of immigration matters.

Their work was the subject of news articles in the Laredo Morning Times, as well as on Laredo’s KGNS-TV and TeleNoticias Laredo.

Not only were the students able to assist the people of Webb County, the trip also provided networking opportunities. At a luncheon during the week, two Aggie law students were offered externship placements in Laredo, one with the District Attorney’s Office and one with the Federal Public Defender’s Office.

Externships, as well as a classroom component at Texas A&M International University, are part of the Texas A&M School of Law Global Programs experiential course, “Special Topics in International Law: Borderlands Law—Contemporary Legal Issues Relating to the U.S.-Mexico Border,” led by Associate Dean Stephen Alton.

Aggie Law students in Laredo at Texas RioGrande Legal AidAggie Law students in Laredo volunteering at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid for Pro Bono Spring Break 2017

Texas A&M University School of Law students who participated in the 2017 Texas Access to Justice Pro Bono Spring Break with their placement and location:

Photos courtesy of Aggie Law students Jessica Ulloa, Mengyuan Fang and Alexia Quintero. See all their photos on our Facebook album.