The Texas Access to Justice Commission has received a $21,965 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation for a new, statewide Pro Bono Winter Break program involving all nine Texas law schools. More than 60 law students and professors will reach out to underserved communities throughout the state to engage in law-related volunteer projects through this program beginning in 2013.
Law students selected for the program will have the opportunity to practice legal skills under the supervision of a faculty member and legal aid providers will gain a team of skilled, supervised volunteers to help meet the overwhelming needs in their legal aid office. The Commission is developing an application process that will allow the law schools to select the students who will participate. The week-long project is based on a successful program developed by the University of Texas School of Law.
“This project will give law students the opportunity to provide meaningful legal aid to low- income Texans and will afford the students great practical legal experience,” said Harry Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission. “We hope it will also show them that giving pro bono assistance to those in need is one of the most personally fulfilling things a lawyer can do.”
The Texas Access to Justice Commission also coordinates an annual Summer Internship program for law students, and created the Texas Student Loan Repayment Assistance program in 2003 that provides forgivable loans in exchange for a long-term commitment to work at a legal aid office.
More than 6.1 million Texans currently qualify for civil legal aid. However, due to a lack of resources, only about 20 to 25 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income and poor Texans are being met. To be eligible for civil legal aid, an individual must earn no more than $13,963 a year. For a family of four, the household income cannot exceed $28,813.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $14 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably funded bar foundation