November 20, 2014
DALLAS (SMU) — Calling SMU Dedman School of Law’s longstanding legal assistance to the poor “truly extraordinary,” the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TAJC) honored the law school with the 2014 ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award Monday, Nov. 17, in Austin.
SMU Dedman School of Law was "unanimously selected" for "actively educating its students about access to justice issues, carrying forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession in Texas," said TAJC executive director Trish McCallister.
SMU Dedman School of Law has long recognized the valuable role public service plays in the development of future lawyers and in helping to meet the critical need for pro bono legal assistance in the community.
Since 1947, nearly 20 years before legal clinics became a national movement, SMU's community legal clinics have provided representation for low-income clients in Dallas-area federal and state courts. They also have allowed students, closely supervised by a clinic faculty member, to learn by practicing in all aspects of the lawyering process.
The clinics program, recently selected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to begin both patent and trademark clinics, now encompass eight areas — civil litigation, criminal justice, federal taxes, small business, child advocacy, consumer support, patent and trademark.
In addition, this year SMU Dedman Law has announced two new clinics: The Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Womenopening in 2015, and the VanSickle Family Law Clinic opening soon.
“SMU Dedman School of Law’s growing clinical program demonstrates our commitment to expanding access to legal services while also exposing students to the vast and diverse need for those services in the community,” said Jennifer M. Collins, Judge James Noel Dean and Professor of Law at SMU Dedman School of Law. “Along with its educational goals, the law school’s clinical program not only fills in legal assistance gaps, but also encourages students to continue providing pro bono assistance long after they graduate.”
The TAJC was created by the Supreme Court of Texas to coordinate services and reduce barriers for people who seek legal representation but may not be able to afford it. Four out of five of Texas’ 5.8 million low-income citizens who qualify for legal help can’t get it because of a lack of resources, the TAJC reports. Meanwhile, in the past six years, there has been a 21 percent increase in case needs.
The 2014 ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award was presented at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin’s Frank Erwin Center Nov. 17; for more details about the event, contact 512-427-1873.
For more information about SMU Dedman School of Law’s public service initiatives, visit www.law.smu.edu/Public-Service or call (214) 768-2761.
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