Texas Access to Justice Commission Honors STCL Houston with Prestigious 2019 Law School Commitment to Service Award
For the third time in the past eight years, the Texas Access to Justice Commission (ATJ) recently honored South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) with its annual ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award.
This prestigious recognition — open to all accredited law schools in the state — “honors a law school that has carried forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession by actively educating its students about access to justice issues.”
Trish McAllister, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said, “The Commission recognizes the commitment to the provision of legal services to the poor by South Texas College of Law Houston as truly exceptional.”
Texas Supreme Court Justices Eva Guzman ’89 — an STCL Houston alumna — and Brett Busby presented STCL Houston President and Dean Michael F. Barry with the award in front of an audience of approximately 10,000 at the 2019 New Lawyer Induction Ceremony in Austin this week.
South Texas received the award in large part because of the innovative consolidation of its academic clinical program and pro bono initiatives. After renovating an entire floor of the school in 2013, STCL Houston opened the state-of-the-art Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics — which pair law school faculty and staff with students who gain firsthand experience while learning about the challenges marginalized Texans face in obtaining access to justice.
The Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics now is home to 23 separate, specialized legal clinics — eight more than any other Texas law school — that offer free legal assistance for low-income populations throughout the Houston metropolitan area.
In presenting the award to Barry, Guzman said, “The [Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics] are truly visionary. They not only serve the immediate needs of the underrepresented, they also help develop compassionate and capable future attorneys.
“Time and again, South Texas College of Law Houston has demonstrated its abiding commitment to ‘Equal Justice for All,’” she noted. “The law school’s devotion to the rule of law and dedication to enhancing access to justice have empowered many, transformed lives, and ensured that the next generation of lawyers will pursue justice.”
Teams of STCL Houston faculty, staff attorneys, paralegals, and law students support clients in a wide variety of Civil Practice Clinics in the areas of estate planning, basic and advanced family law, guardianship, probate, and veterans affairs. STCL Houston also offers Special Focus Clinics, which address access to justice, asylum and human trafficking, actual innocence, domestic violence, mediation, intellectual property, and animal law.
In addition to working in the Clinics, STCL Houston students volunteer their time in off-campus internships with a pro bono focus. Participating students invest a minimum of 4,500 hours of public interest service at no cost to community organizations each year.
STCL Houston students — through both the Clinics and internships — annually contribute more than 35,000 hours of pro bono legal services to underserved Houston residents, valued at nearly $1.8 million.
Catherine Greene Burnett — STCL Houston vice president, associate dean, and professor — has directed the law school’s clinical program since its inception in 1990, and continues to work to ensure access to justice for many in the community who would not otherwise receive legal support.
“We are tremendously honored to receive the Texas Access to Justice Law School Commitment to Service Award,” said Burnett. “It is our privilege to help ensure access to justice for all Houston-area residents, regardless of their ability to pay for legal services. It is a major commitment by our dean and board leadership, by our faculty and staff, and by our students.”