Mary Spector

Headshot of Mary Spector, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

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

Full-time faculty


Mary Spector is a Professor of Law and the Associate Dean for Experiential Learning at SMU Dedman School of Law. She oversees all aspects of experiential learning including clinical, externship, legal research, writing and advocacy, trial advocacy, and BOA programs. Additionally, Professor Spector teaches Consumer Law and directs SMU’s Civil/Consumer Clinic where she supervises students representing low-income clients in state and federal courts. Her research interests combine theory and practice to protect the rights of consumers and tenants and to improve access to justice in the civil courts.

Professor Spector's research and her work with students have received funding from the American Bar Association’s Section on Litigation, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas, the United Way, and the Texas and Dallas Bar Foundations. She served as an official observer to the Uniform Law Commission’s drafting committee on consumer debt collection and has served as an expert on consumer debt to the Department of Justice. She has provided testimony to the House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit and in public hearings and round tables hosted by the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Texas Legislature. In 2019, Professor Spector served as the Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor at the University of Cambridge (UK) Faculty of Law where she worked on a project exploring the role of clinical legal education to promote access to justice.

In June 2020, Professor Spector launched the SMU Dedman School of Law COVID-19 Legal Helpline, a collaborative community project with law students providing legal assistance to members of the community.  Supported by the United Way, among others, the Helpline received the State Bar of Texas 2021 W. Frank Newton Award in recognition of outstanding contributions increasing access to legal services for the poor.  In 2009, she was named a Bellow Scholar by the American Association of Law Schools Clinical Section for her study of consumer debt collection litigation and is a recipient of SMU’s Golden Mustang Award for contributions to teaching and student learning.

After receiving her B.A. from Simmons College and her J.D., cum laude, from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Professor Spector served as a law clerk to the late 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. 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.

Area 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)
SSRN | SMU Repository

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)
SSRN | SMU Repository

From Representation to Research and Back Again: Reflections on Developing an Empirical Project, 16 University of the District of Columbia Law Review 55 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

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

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

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

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

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

Book chapters

Austerity and Access to Justice: Exploring the Role of Clinical Legal Education in Cambridge (with Jodi Gardner), in INNOVATION AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF CONSUMER LAW NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES (Dan Wei, James P. Nehf & Claudia Lima Marques, eds., 2020)
Springer (Chapter)

Payday Loans: Unintended Consequences of American Efforts to Tame the Beast, in THE FUTURE OF CONSUMER CREDIT REGULATION: CREATIVE APPROACHES TO EMERGING PROBLEMS 107 (Ashgate 2008)

Other publications

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

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

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

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


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 (Panelist), U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Detroit, MI (2012)


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

NBC News DFW Affiliate, Interview, Family Forced to Sell Home to Pay for Medical Care (2018)

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