AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Access to Justice Commission presented the Law Student #ProBono Award to Maria Ivañez, a third-year law student at South Texas College of Law Houston, at the New Lawyers Induction Ceremony on November 21st in Austin, Texas. The Commission also honored Baylor Law School with the ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award.
ATJ Law Student Pro Bono Award -
The ATJ Law Student Pro Bono Award recognizes Texas law students who demonstrate a commitment to the delivery of legal services to low-income Texans and a passion for advocating on behalf of the underserved. Eligible law students or recent graduates may be nominated by a law school dean, clinic professor, legal services supervisor, or may nominate themselves. The award includes a $2,000 stipend.
Maria Ivañez has consistently demonstrated her commitment to helping others and providing legal assistance to those less fortunate. Throughout her law school journey, Ivañez integrated service into her education, participating in a number of clinics at South Texas College of Law Houston. Working in the school’s Immigration Clinic, she stood up for vulnerable undocumented minors and helped them find a path to legal residence. During her time in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Clinic, Maria taught underprivileged high school students about important constitutional rights and civic responsibilities. In addition to her clinic work, Ivañez spent any remaining time she had working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project at her law school, helping low-income tax-payers prepare and file their tax returns to avoid penalties or late fees. As a 3L graduating in December, Ivañez aims to continue helping low-income and vulnerable families in navigating the justice system. She hopes to be a driver of progress for her community and a champion of justice for all.
ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award -
The ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award recognizes a law school that has most distinguished itself by actively educating its students about access to justice issues through clinics, public interest programs, student organizations, and other initiatives. A law school may be nominated by a law school dean, clinic professor, law student or legal services organization.
Baylor Law School was honored for developing and supporting highly relevant clinics and service-oriented programs. Since 2012, the school has been offering a pro bono legal clinic to serve veterans. With 19,000 veterans residing in McLennan County, Baylor’s Veterans Assistance Clinic is much needed. Since the clinic’s inception, more than 500 veterans have been served by law school faculty and students. Now with a full-time Director, the clinic has been able to expand its efforts and offer more students the experience of serving low-income veterans on a pro bono basis.
Baylor Law has also established a Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (#DACA) Immigration Clinic. In this clinic, law students volunteer their time to assist qualified individuals with processing or renewing their DACA applications. The school intends for this clinic to serve as the foundation of an ongoing immigration clinic that will assist local members of the greater Waco community with other immigration-related matters.
Baylor Law has greatly increased the opportunities for students to participate in community service and work on pro bono cases. These innovative, hands-on opportunities help Baylor Law students better understand and appreciate the service aspect of the legal profession.
On Friday, November 18, 2016, Baylor Law School hosted its largest Adoption Day ever. Aided by fifty-nine Baylor Law School students, a record-breaking fourty-one children were adopted into loving, permanent families.
Now in its ninth year, Baylor Law School hosts the event in collaboration with the Baylor Public Interest Legal Society, the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association, and the McLennan County Office of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Through the dedicated efforts of many Baylor Law School students, the first floor of the law center was colorfully decorated and transformed into a fun, family celebration based on the childrens' movie "Finding Dory,"— this year's Adoption Day theme: "Adoptions: Finding Families."