Baylor Law School’s work to provide legal services to underserved communities in Central Texas is being honored by the State Bar of Texas.
The State Bar of Texas and its Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee has selected Baylor Law School as the recipient of the 2014 W. Frank Newton Award. According to the state bar and the committee, Baylor Law was honored for its “truly exceptional” commitment to the “provision of legal services to the poor.”
Baylor Law School will be recognized at the Bar Leaders Reception Luncheon at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Austin on June 26.
The W. Frank Newton Award recognizes the pro bono contribution of attorney groups, including law school faculty, whose members have made an outstanding contribution in the provision of, or access to, legal services to the poor. The award is named for W. Frank Newton, former dean of Texas Tech University School of Law and long time pro bono advocate.
“At Baylor Law School, our mission is to develop in our students a sense of commitment to service and leadership within the legal profession and community as well as to ensure meaningful public access to our system of justice," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben.
Under the guidance of faculty members, Baylor Law has created an immigration clinic and a military veterans’ assistance clinic. Students also have an opportunity to serve the community on an individual basis. This individual-focused program is called the Pro Bono and Public Service Program. The work includes both public interest (government, prosecutors, public defenders, direct services, law reform, public interest law firms, and judicial internships) and community service. Since the program’s inception, students have performed more that 2,300 hours of service.
“I am so pleased that the state bar has recognized with this award Baylor Law’s efforts,” said Baylor Law Professor Bridget Fuselier, who is the founder and director of the Baylor Veterans’ Assistance Clinic. “For such a small school and surrounding community, we have a great number of students, faculty, and local attorneys who have really worked together to make our pro bono and community service programs possible.”
In addition to the work students perform during the academic year, Baylor Law School has created the Public Interest Summer Fellowships, which enable students to intern during the summer for nonprofit or governmental organizations serving underrepresented populations. Public interest employers for purposes of these fellowships have included government programs that serve indigent populations, nonprofit organizations that serve indigent populations, legal aid, and public defenders’ offices. The students work on various issues, including poverty and welfare, domestic and family, immigration, civil rights, workers' compensation, and bankruptcy.
Other service opportunities Baylor Law School has undertaken include hosting National Adoption Day and its popular People's Law School. Beginning with the Fall 2009 academic quarter, Baylor Law took an extra step in communicating the importance of service to its students by incorporating a community service project into each entering class' orientation. Each class has participated in projects benefiting the Waco and Central Texas community. Organizations served include Habitat for Humanity, the city of Waco (roadside and river cleanup), and Meals on Wheels. Recently, incoming students have assisted in efforts to help the people of West, Texas, recover from a devastating fertilizer plant explosion in 2012.
The W. Frank Newton Award is the latest accolade recognizing Baylor Law School and its students’ commitment to helping those with limited access to the judicial system.
In 2012, Baylor Law student Brittany V. Wray won the Law Student Pro Bono Award from the Texas Access to Justice Commission. The award recognizes a law student whose pro bono work has made a significant impact on the community and reflects a passion for advocating on behalf of underserved populations.
In 2010, Baylor Law School received the Law School Commitment to Service Award from the Texas Access to Justice Commission. The award honors the law school that has most distinguished itself by actively educating its students about access to justice issues.