SMU Law's Covid-19 Helpline Recognized by State Bar of Texas for Free Pandemic-related Legal Services


SMU Dedman School of Law’s COVID-19 Legal Helpline has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 State Bar of Texas’ W. Frank Newton Award for its exceptional dedication to legal services for low-income North Texans. The award, which recognizes individuals and groups whose work exemplifies a deep commitment to pro bono service, will be presented during the State Bar’s virtual Annual Meeting on Friday, June 18.

In June 2020, SMU Dedman School of Law launched the Helpline to offer North Texas residents the opportunity to secure free legal assistance with matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as housing, immigration and consumer protection. Working under the supervision of SMU Law Clinic faculty, 57 students staffed the phone lines which received approximately 2,400 calls over the course of the last year.

The work of the Helpline is ongoing and SMU Law students will continue to staff the Helpline phones five days a week this summer.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this award for the SMU Law Legal Helpline,” said Mary Spector, Associate Dean for Clinics at SMU Dedman Law. “Since its inception last June, the Helpline has not only become an important resource for the D/FW community, but also has provided SMU Law students with the chance to gain valuable legal experience and professional skills, and continues to do so. I’m proud of our students’ eagerness to step up to the legal challenges the pandemic presents.”

The program was assisted by many dedicated community partners working on behalf of the Helpline, including the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and SMU Law alumnus Mark Melton, whose pro bono project DallasEvictions2020.com includes more than 80 volunteer attorneys. In addition, SMU received important funding provided by the Dallas Bar Foundation and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Other partners in the project have included the Dallas Bar Association, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP), Legal Aid of Northwest Texas and UNT Dallas College of Law.

“This project is a wonderful example of how deeply committed SMU is to helping our students and to serving this city,” said Jennifer Collins, Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law at SMU Dedman School of Law. “We are truly honored to receive this recognition from the State Bar of Texas, and we are very thankful to our committed partners that continue to help SMU Law provide this support to our community.”

Those interested in supporting the Helpline project may visit the SMU Dedman School of Law giving page.