Texas Tech University School of Law
Law School Pro Bono Programs
Office Manager/Legal Assistant
(806) 742-3787, Ext. 222
Public Service Graduation Requirement Program
Description of Programs
Formal Voluntary Pro Bono Program Characterized by a Referral System with a Coordinator (still in place for Class of 2017).
Public-Service Graduation Requirement Program beginning with Class of 2018.
Beginning with the Class of 2018, Texas Tech Law has a public-service graduation requirement. Before graduating, students must perform at least 30 total hours of public-service work (at least 15 hours must be legal in nature). Students who perform double the requirement will be recognized and receive honors for their efforts. For the Class of 2017, Texas Tech Law maintains a formal voluntary pro bono program called the Pro Bono Honor Roll. Students become a part of the Pro Bono Honor Roll when they perform 30 or more hours of qualifying pro bono work during the fiscal year (September 1 through August 31). To be considered pro bono work, students must provide primarily legal services on behalf of primarily indigent people and cannot receive pay or earn course credit for their work. These opportunities are designed to meet the needs of the community and to give students as many options as possible. Texas Tech Law also offers opportunities outside of Lubbock during spring, summer, and winter breaks, and during the fall and spring semesters for students participating in our Regional Externship Program, for which there is a pro bono/community service requirement.
Location of Programs
Office of Student Affairs/Services.
The Texas Tech Law Public-Service Graduation Requirement and Pro Bono Honor Roll are overseen by Stacy Riker, Director for Pro Bono Projects. She works closely with Dean Darby Dickerson and a number of students and other organizations in the creation and implementation of pro bono opportunities.
Funding for the Pro Bono Program comes from Texas Tech Law’s general operating budget.
Student Run Pro Bono Groups/Specialized Law Education Projects
During the spring of 2016, Texas Tech Law formed its inaugural Pro Bono Student Board of Directors. The Board grew from three to six members for the 2016-17 school year. These students work under the Director of Pro Bono Projects to oversee projects and serve as the voice of the student body for pro bono initiatives.
Family Law Society assists Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas with its evening pro bono legal clinics held at St. John’s United Methodist Church by providing volunteer students to conduct initial intake application interviews.
Students participating in Texas Tech Law’s Regional Externship Program must satisfy a pro bono/community service requirement. Likewise, students participating in Texas Tech Law’s Academy for Leadership in the Legal Profession (ALLP) program often initiate and implement an innovative pro bono project before becoming inducted into the academy. A number of student organizations organize both legal and non-legal community service projects and encourage their members to participate.
Many opportunities take the form of ongoing placements in which students will assist a supervising attorney at a legal services organization’s office with legal issues. Some examples are:
- Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas
- Legal Aid Society
- Innocence Project of Texas
- Disability Rights of Texas
- Catholic Charities Diocese of Lubbock
- Office of Dispute Resolution
Other opportunities for students to perform pro bono work include shorter-duration special projects or events. Some examples are:
- Wills Clinic (partnership with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas)
- Immigration Clinic
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
- Research Projects (students have worked remotely for different legal aid offices on interesting research projects)
- Pro Bono Spring Break
- Mentor Project (students are paired with a practicing attorney to help work on a pro bono case from beginning to end)
- Patent Law Project
- National Adoption Day
- DVAP Clinic (students and alumni staff an evening DVAP clinic this past summer)
- Student-initiated pro bono projects through Texas Tech Law’s Academy for Leadership in the Legal Profession program
Faculty and Administrative Pro Bono
Faculty is committed to serving at least 10 hours of public-service work per year. Most faculty members, however, perform many more hours. Faculty and staff involvement is encouraged and includes the following activities:
Texas Tech Law has co-sponsored with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas evening pro bono legal clinics in the community, as well as the law school clinic offices. Faculty and staff have served as volunteer attorneys providing legal advice at pro bono clinics sponsored by the Equal Justice Volunteer Program of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas since 1991. Faculty and staff members often accept cases on a pro bono basis throughout the year through this program. Faculty and staff members also participate in providing legal advice during legal clinics co-sponsored by student groups.
Since 2007, Texas Tech Law has sponsored the Night Court Project once a month from August through April during the academic year. Students in the Civil Practice Clinic and the Family Law and Housing Clinic interview clients previously screened by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and prepare the necessary paperwork during the divorce clinics. A judge volunteers by coming to the law school courtroom to conduct final hearings at night.
Law school faculty hosts a continuing legal education program, the Annual Texas Tech Law School Faculty Update for legal services attorneys, public interest practitioners, and pro bono attorneys. This annual free CLE program has existed since fall 2006.
Faculty and Institution Awards and Recognition:
- Several law professors and staff have been recognized for their efforts and participation in volunteering at the evening pro bono clinics.
- The Criminal Clinical Program, under the supervision of Criminal Clinic Director Patrick S. Metze, was recently awarded the prestigious Gideon Award and was also the recipient of the Texas Tech University Teaching Academy Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award for 2013.
- Three law professors (Larry R. Spain, Wendy Tolson Ross, and J. Wesley Cochran) have been recipients of the John Crews Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award presented by the Lubbock County Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.
Student Awards and Recognition
- The Elma Moreno Pro Bono Award, named for the long-time director of the Equal Justice Volunteer Program of what was formerly known as West Texas Legal Services, recognizes a student for outstanding pro bono service with a cash stipend.
- Students subject to the public-service graduation requirement who perform at least 60 total hours before graduating will receive recognition and honors at graduation.
- Students admitted to the Pro Bono Honor Roll will be recognized for their service at the annual Honors and Awards Ceremony in April and held each spring and in the hooding-ceremony materials when they graduate.
- The Dean’s Award: 100 hours
- The Excellence Award: 50 hours
- The Honors Award: 30 hours
- The Texas Tech Law Pro Bono Achievement Award recognizes students who have performed at least 150 total hours over all three years.
- The Pro Bono Graduating Student of the Year Award is reserved for the top graduating pro bono student.
- Every year, Legal Aid of North WestTexas recognizes students for their participation and assistance at the pro bono legal clinics held throughout the community. Students are recognized at an annual recognition event co-sponsored by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Equal Justice Volunteer Project and the Lubbock County Bar Association.
- Several students have been recognized with the CLEA (Clinical Legal Education Association) award during the past years.
Each semester, Texas Tech Law hosts one service day where students, faculty, staff, family and friends gather to help a local organization. Past service days have included cooking breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House and volunteering at the local food bank.
Community service is primarily left to the student groups. Most student groups plan community service activities throughout the year. For more than 15 years, students at the law school have volunteered to staff the pro bono clinics operating through the Equal Justice Volunteer Program of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (formerly Private Attorney Involvement Program of West Texas Legal Services). Students conduct the intake interviews at pro bono clinics and also regularly assist the volunteer lawyers on cases that arise out of the clinics.
There are numerous other volunteer service activities performed by student organizations and individual students. Students regularly volunteer for no money or credit at the offices of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and Legal Aid Society of Lubbock. Many students are CASA volunteers; several are VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) volunteers; many others volunteer at Women's Protective Services, Rape Crisis Center, Contact Lubbock, Inc. Organizations such as Hispanic Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Women's Caucus, Christian Legal Society, Estate Law Society and the legal fraternities regularly do volunteer service projects.
Law School Public Interest Programs
Office Manager/Legal Assistant
(806) 742-3787, Ext. 222
Public Interest Centers
Public Interest Clinics
Low Income Taxpayer Clinic
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic began operation in September of 2000 and is offered as a full year graded course (5 credit hours each semester – 2 for classroom component and 3 for casework), as well as a 4 credit hour graded course during the summer sessions (students must enroll for both summer sessions). The clinic enrolls 8 to 10 advanced students each semester by application and invitation only. The tax clinic is funded by a matching grant from the Internal Revenue Service, and it provides legal help to taxpayers with incomes equal to or less than 250% of the federal poverty level in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service.
The Clinic does not prepare returns or handle normal audit situations. However, the clinic students will provide assistance in all areas involving collection disputes, including, but not limited to: levy and seizure action, summonses, innocent spouse applications, offers in compromise, payment agreements, lien releases, and trust fund recovery penalties as well as, representation in cases before the United States Tax Court. Students develop important lawyering skills by interviewing and counseling clients, conducting factual investigations, legal research and analysis, negotiating compromises, drafting documents and litigating.
Civil Practice Clinic
The Civil Practice Clinic is a full year graded clinical course (six credit hours each semester – 2 for classroom component and 4 for case work) limited to third year law students who are given responsibility to represent actual clients with their legal problems. Students represent clients in a range of substantive areas including family law, public benefits, civil rights, consumer, housing, and estate planning. To the extent possible, the caseload reflects areas of interest to participating students.
Students handle cases from beginning to end, taking full responsibility for client cases and learn lawyering skills at both the practical and theoretical level through individualized instruction in the lawyering process in a closely supervised setting while also providing legal services to low-income clients in the community who would otherwise lack access to legal services. In order to provide a quality educational experience for students, the Civil Clinic undertakes a limited number of cases, selected in close consultation with and through referral from Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. With a small caseload, students have the opportunity to thoroughly investigate and prepare client matters entrusted to them and make independent judgments in a supervised clinical setting while reflecting on the strategic decisions they make and advocacy skills utilized that will promote their future development as a highly effective and ethical professional.
Within the Civil Practice Clinic, students are given direct responsibility for handling all phases of client representation which may include interviewing and counseling clients, investigating facts, developing case strategy, negotiating with parties and counsel, drafting pleadings and legal documents, and representing clients in court and before administrative agencies. The Civil Practice Clinic was initiated in the fall semester of 2001. A maximum of 8 students are selected for the Civil Practice Clinic each year.
Criminal Defense Clinic
The Criminal Defense Clinic is a full year graded clinical course (six credit hours each semester – 2 for classroom component and 4 for case work) limited to third year law students. The Criminal Defense Clinic accepts court appointments to represent defendants in criminal cases who would otherwise be unable to afford their own legal representation. Cases involve misdemeanors, felonies, and juvenile offenses in Lubbock County and the surrounding metropolitan area. Students are closely supervised at all stages of their cases by Professor Patrick S. Metze. The clinic also works closely with members of the local and state bars to expose students to professional development, networking, and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) opportunities while still in law school.
By the end of the course, each student will have represented 6-8 clients. Students are fully responsible for their cases, from intake through disposition. The classroom component of the clinic focuses on skills development, ethics, and case strategy related to criminal law. Students also have the opportunity to hone their writing skills by drafting motions and appellate briefs.
Caprock Regional Public Defender Clinic
This is a full-year 12 credit hours (6 per semester - 2 for class room component and 4 for case work) course limited to a maximum of 12 students. Students accepted into the clinic must be registered for both Fall and Spring semesters. The CRPDO provides a community service by representing defendants in criminal cases who would otherwise be unable to afford their own legal representation. Cases involve misdemeanor and juvenile offenses in a 14 county region. Students are closely supervised by Donnie Yandell, Chief Public Defender, and Charlie Pelowski, Assistant Public Defender.
By the end of the course, each student will have represented up to eight clients. Students are fully responsible for their cases, from intake through disposition. The classroom component of the clinic focuses on skills development, ethics, and case strategy related to criminal law and is taught by Professor Patrick S. Metze. Students also have the opportunity to hone their writing skills by drafting motions.
Capital Punishment Clinic
The Capital Punishment Clinic is offered as a one semester graded course during the Spring semester. Participants earn four credit hours. Participants are limited to third year law students and a maximum of 4 students are selected for this clinic. The Capital Punishment Clinic provides a community service by giving the student the opportunity to assist in the representation of defendants charged with capital murder. Upon application, four students will be invited to participate to work with the West Texas Public Defenders Office for Capital Cases located in Lubbock. This is the first Public Defenders Office of its type in Texas and is the prototype for representation of those accused of capital crimes. The students will work with the attorneys, mitigators, investigators and other professionals in helping to represent those facing the death penalty using cutting edge techniques and applying their legal education to a wide variety of activities including investigation, interviewing clients and witnesses, legal research, legal writing, restorative justice, criminal procedure and substantive criminal law.
The classroom component will continue the student's study of capital punishment jurisprudence focusing on skills development, ethics, and case strategy in real on-going capital cases. This clinic requires a significant commitment of time which will return a unique, experiential opportunity for third year students as they approach the end of their legal education.
Advanced ADR Clinic
The Advanced Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) clinic provides instruction to students which qualifies as the 40 hour basic mediation training course in Texas. Through classroom instruction and simulations, students will examine the issues, principles and skills necessary to the use of mediation as a method of conflict resolution. Each student will have the opportunity to observe and mediate actual disputes through the Lubbock County Office of Dispute Resolution.
The Advanced ADR Clinic is a one-semester, three credit hour graded clinical course limited to 18 students
Family Law and Housing Clinic
This is a full-year 12 credit hours (6 per semester - 2 for class room component and 4 for case work) course limited to 8 students. Students accepted into the clinic must be registered for both Fall and Spring semesters. Students assume primary responsibility under faculty supervision of all phases of representation in assigned cases in a variety of civil matters including, but not limited to, family law and housing matters. The course focuses on the development of professional skills and values in a closely supervised clinical setting, including interviewing and counseling, case analysis and planning, problem solving, fact investigation, negotiation and mediation, document drafting, written and oral advocacy.
Classroom component will provide instruction in substantive and procedural law applicable to cases handled by the Clinic as well as ethical issues and professional values; professional skill development; and case rounds. The Family Law and Housing Clinic was initiated in the fall semester of 2012. A maximum of 8 students are selected for the Family law and Housing Clinic each year.
Students may participate in externship for credit in which they work under the supervision of a lawyer or a judge. The externship course includes a classroom component, and students meet together with a faculty member to discuss their work experiences in their internship placement
Access to Justice Summer Internship Program https://www.texasatj.org/atj-internship-program
Classes with a Public Service Component
Public Interest Journals
PI Career Support Center
The Career Services Offices maintains listings of employment opportunities with public interest organizations and provides information to students regarding public interest organizations, internship opportunities and public interest career fairs.
In cooperation with the Student Public Interest Initiative, Career Services sponsors a Public Interest Career panel that highlights public interest employment opportunities.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP)
The Student Public Interest Initiative is in the process of developing a Loan Repayment Assistance Program that would assist graduates who take public interest positions after graduation.
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
Term Time Fellowships/Scholarships
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded
Other Funding Sources:
Law School Funded:
Graduate Student Funded:
Other Funding Sources:
SPII Summer Fellowship Program - Any law student at Texas Tech School of Law can apply for summer funding from the Student Public Interest Initiative (SPII) that raise funds through an annual auction and other fundraising activities to support students who work with public interest organizations in the summer. Students receiving summer funding from SPII can either work with an organization that does work on behalf of disempowered or underrepresented people, or can work on an independent project that addresses a specific social problem under the supervision of an attorney or organization that is capable of offering guidance and expertise to the student. The student must: (1) Demonstrate that s/he has exhausted all other funding available to him/her and that the work that the student proposes to do would be impossible without funding from SPII (2) Demonstrate that the summer work s/he proposes to do fits within SPII's definition of public interest work.
Extracurricular and Co-Curricular Programs
Texas Tech participates with other law schools in Texas in partnership with the Texas Access to Justice Commission in an annual Pro Bono Spring Break Project placing students in rural legal aid programs to work on projects benefiting underserved communities.
Student Public Interest Groups
The Student Public Interest Initiative (SPII) is a student-run organization established in 2002. Its mission is to raise funds for (1) summer stipends for students doing public interest internships and (2) loan forgiveness or loan repayment for Tech law students who choose to work in public interest jobs upon graduation. In addition, students have been involved in promoting public interest work through career fairs and other activities, including assisting with client intake through Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The organization has been successful in raising money each year through an Annual Talent Show and Auction to support public interest work.