Celebrating 75 Years of Legal Clinics

ACLU President and NYU Law Associate Dean Deborah Archer’s Oct. 5 lecture to highlight Clinic Week

SMU’s Dedman School of Law celebrated the 75th anniversary of its law clinics, which provide legal services for those who cannot otherwise afford it, with various events throughout “Clinic Week” beginning Oct. 2.

Deborah N. Archer, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), associate dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Programs, professor of Clinical Law, and faculty director of the Community Equity Lab at New York University School of Law delivered the Clinic Week’s keynote lecture at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 5 in the Hillcrest classroom in Underwood Law Library on the SMU campus. A reception followed in Karcher Auditorium.

Beginning in 1948, what was then known as The School of Law at SMU was among the first in the United States to sponsor a community legal clinic that was designed to provide practical experience for law students while, at the same time, assisting indigent individuals with their legal problems. Over time, Dedman Law’s program has grown to now offer 10 clinics where, under the supervision of clinic directors, students serve as advocates for their clients and their communities, and help to close the justice gap that exists in many areas of the law.

Students working in the clinics have served several thousand clients over the past 75 years. Dedman professor Mary Spector, director of the Civil/Consumer Clinic and dean for Experiential Learning at the law school describes the clinics as “the place where our students enter as students and leave as lawyers, where they meet their first clients and where they see first-hand the many challenges their clients face. It’s also a place where they develop the professional skills – and memories – they will have with them throughout their careers.”

“We are delighted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our legal clinics,” said Jason P. Nance, dean of SMU Dedman School of Law. “We view our clinical education program as an important partnership with the DFW community and an opportunity to teach students to become competent lawyers who also have a public-service mindset.”

Dedman Law now offers the following clinics:

  • W.W. Caruth, Jr. Child Advocacy Clinic
  • Civil/Consumer Clinic
  • Criminal Clinic
  • Federal Tax Clinic
  • First Amendment Clinic
  • Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women
  • Innocence Clinic
  • Patent Law Clinic
  • Small Business Clinic and Trademark Clinic
  • VanSickle Family Law Clinic


Deborah Archer, Clinic Week’s keynote speaker, is a graduate of Yale Law School, an expert in civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice, and an award-winning teacher and legal scholar whose articles have appeared in leading law reviews. Archer previously worked as an attorney with the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she litigated in the areas of voting rights, employment discrimination, and school desegregation.

Archer has been honored by numerous community organizations and legal institutions, including Yale Law School, Columbia Law School, Boston University School of Law, New York University, Smith College, New York Law School, the American Association of Law Schools, and the Law and Society Association.

Other celebratory events for the Law School community were held during Clinic Week at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Read more about the 75th Clinic Anniversary in The Dallas Morning News Op-ed written by Dean Jason Nance and Associate Dean of Experiential Learning Mary Spector:  SMU Dedman Law celebrates 75 years of pro bono legal clinics in Dallas