Mary Spector

Mary Spector

Full-time faculty

Associate Dean for Clinics, Director of the Civil/Consumer Clinic and Professor of Law


Professor Spector joined the faculty in 1995 as Co-Director of the SMU Civil Clinic where she continues to supervise students representing clients in state and federal courts. She also teaches Consumer Law and is a recipient of the University Golden Mustang Teaching Award, the Law School’s Don Smart Directed Research Award and Women in Law’s Faculty Appreciation Award. She writes and speaks in the areas of consumer credit, landlord-tenant law and clinical legal education. For her project on consumer debt collection litigation published in the Virginia Law & Business Review (2011), Professor Spector was honored with the Bellow Scholar Award from the AALS Clinical Section. For a project regarding to clinical legal education, Professor Spector was selected to serve as a Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor to the Faculty of Law in the University of Cambridge in Summer 2019.

A graduate of the Cardozo School of Law with honors, Professor Spector served as a law clerk to the Honorable Jerry Buchmeyer, United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas before joining the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld as an associate. Prior to joining the law school faculty, she was an adjunct instructor of Legal Writing and Research, a visiting supervising attorney with the SMU Legal Clinic and a field instructor with the SMU/Legal Services of North Texas externship program. Outside of the Law School, Professor Spector received the Dallas Bar Association Pro Bono Award and has served on a number of university, professional and community committees and boards.

Areas of Expertise

  • Consumer Credit
  • Consumer Debt Collection
  • Credit Reporting
  • Deceptive Trade Practices
  • Tenants Rights
  • Access to Justice
  • Clinical Teaching


B.A., Simmons College
J.D., cum laude, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law


Civil/Consumer Clinic
Consumer Law



Collection Texas Style:  An Analysis of Consumer Collection Practices In and Out of the Courts,  67 Hastings Law Journal 1476 (2016) (with Ann Baddour)

Where the FCRA meets the FDCPA: The Impact of the Unfair Collection Practices on the Credit Report, 20 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy 479 (2013)

From Representation to Research and Back Again: Reflections on Developing an Empirical Project, 16 University of the District of Columbia David Clarke School of Law Law Review 55 (2012)

Roark Reed - Remembering a Colleague, 65 SMU Law Review 749 (2012) (with Maureen N. Armour)

Litigating Consumer Debt Collection: A Study, 31 Banking and Finance Services Policy Report 1 (2012)

Debts, Details and Defaults: Exploring the Impact of Debt Collection Litigation on Consumers and the Courts, 6 Virginia Law & Business Review 257 (2011)

Taming the Beast: Payday Loans, Regulatory Efforts and Unintended Consequences, 57 DePaul Law Review 961 (2008)

Tenant Stories: Obstacles and Challenges Facing Tenants Today, 40 The John Marshall Law Review 407 (2007)

Tenants' Rights, Procedural Wrongs: Summary Evictions and the Need for Reform, 46 Wayne Law Review 135 (2000)

Crossing the Threshold: Examining the Abatement of Public Nuisances Within the Home, 31 Connecticut Law Review 547 (1999)

Epilogue: Theory in Basement, 51 SMU Law Review 1555 (1998) (with Maureen N. Armour)

Note, Vertical and Horizontal Aspects of Takings Jurisprudence: Is Airspace Property?, 7 Cardozo Law Review 489 (1986)

Book Chapters

Payday Loans: Unintended Consequences of American Efforts to Tame the Beast, in THE FUTURE OF CONSUMER CREDIT REGULATION:  CREATIVE APPROACHES TO EMERGING PROBLEMS 107-28 (Michelle Kelly-Louw, James Nehf & Peter Rott, eds., Ashgate Pub. 2008)


Cancellation of Consumer Transactions
14th Annual Advanced Consumer & Commercial Law Course
State Bar of Texas
Austin, TX, forthcoming 2019

Collaborative Efforts to Promote Access to Justice: A Work in Progress
15th Annual Conference of the International Association of Consumer Law
Indiana University,  Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Indianapolis, IN,
forthcoming June 2019

Bringing Clinical Legal Education to Cambridge University: The Trials and Opportunities
with Dr. Jodi Gardner, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge
International Clinical Legal Education Conference, 2019
Comenius University
Bratislava, Slovakia, forthcoming July 2019

Debt Collection
Conference on Consumer Finance Law’s
2018 Annual Consumer Financial Services Conference
Texas A&M University School of Law,
Fort Worth, Texas (2018)

Hot Topics in Debt Collection
14th Annual Advanced Consumer & Commercial Law Course
State Bar of Texas
Austin, TX (2018)

Moving Forward with Debt Collection Rules: Where
can Industry and Advocates find Common Ground

Panelist, InsideArm, First Party Summit
Frisco, TX (2018)

Experiential Learning through Clinics   
Global Ties: Merida Initiative
Dallas, TX (2018)

Empirical Research Methods and the Experiential Curriculum:
“New” Tools for Securing Justice in a Post-Fact Era?
(with Judith Fox and Michael Gregory)
AALS 2018 Annual Meeting, Open Source Program
San Diego, CA (2018)

Supporting Success in the Experiential Curriculum
o-host of half-day program
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (2017)

Ethics and the Experiential Curriculum
(with Luz Herrera) as part of
Supporting Success in the Experiential Curriculum
SMU Dedman School of Law
Dallas, TX (2017)

Collections Update 2017
13th Annual Advanced Consumer & Commercial Law Course
State Bar of Texas
Austin, TX (2017)

FDCPA Update 2016
12th Annual Advanced Consumer & Commercial Law Course
State Bar of Texas
Austin, TX (2016)

Avoiding Consumer Pitfalls:  Fair Debt Collection
Consumer Financial Litigation Symposium
Dallas, TX (2016)

Finance and Consumer Protection
Civil Society Consultation with the White House Legal Aid
Interagency Roundtable on Access to Justice Indicators for
U.S. Implementation of Goal 16, Coordinated by the
Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute and the
National Center for Access to Justice at
Fordham Law School, Washington, DC, (September 2016)
Recommendations available here

Collection Texas Style:  A Snapshot of Consumer Collection Practices In and Out of the Courts
UC Hastings/Stanford Access to Justice Conference
San Francisco, CA, (November 2015)

Debt Collection Dialogue
Panel Moderator
Federal Trade Commission
Dallas, TX, (September 29, 2015)

Collection Texas-Style: Re-examining Collection Litigation in Texas Courts
15th Annual International Association of Consumer Law Conference
University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands (June 2015)

Debt Collection Update
State Bar of Texas, Annual Meeting
Section on Consumer and Commercial Law
San Antonio, TX (June 2015)

Civil Legal Aid Research Workshop
Panelist:  Consumer Protection and Civil Legal Aid
Department of Justice & National Science Foundation
Washington, DC (2015)


The CAP-Impact Podcast,  Episode 41:
SMU Law Prof. Mary Spector on the Personal Debt Crisis
Capital Center for Law & Policy, McGeorge University,  (Mar. 21, 2019)

Medical Debt Epidemic
NBC News DFW Affiliate
Interview available here.  

Payday Loans for Christmas Cash Could Spur Yearlong Debt Cycle
NBC-DFW Evening News, (2012), available at

Law for the People
KNON Community Radio Program
Landlord-Tenant Law (2005)



Public Testimony
Testimony, Examining the Uses of Consumer Credit Data:  Hearing on H.R. 2086 and H.R. 6363 Before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutes and Consumer Credit of the House Committee on Financial Services
United States Congress, 112th Congress
Washington, DC (2012)

Concerns in Reporting Consumer Debt, Field Hearing on Credit Reporting
U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Detroit, MI (2012)

Works in Progress
Collection Texas-Style:  Re-examining Collection Litigation in Texas Courts 

Understanding Consumer Reports:  A Pilot Project Integrating Policy and Research into the Law School Clinic

Fixing Broken Systems:  Using Data to Shape Meaningful Change