Students looking for hands-on experience with actual client cases will discover both through Baylor Law's Legal Clinics. As part of the School's commitment to pro bono public service, students step outside the classroom and into the community, meeting and working with clients with real needs and real issues—most of who cannot afford a lawyer.
Over the past few years, more than 1,500 central Texans have been served by Baylor Law students, faculty and volunteer attorneys. Under the supervision of a professor and licensed attorney, many clinics operate year-round. Most are voluntary. And all provide students with invaluable experience, including:
Students discover that clients rarely arrive with their legal problems already tied in a neat bow. Developing the listening, interview and client counseling skills to elicit the facts—and the temperament to manage human side of the process—are foundational to any law practice.
In some instances, students find the work they're doing in clinic mirrors many of the same responsibilities—sometimes even in the same area—they will be assuming in practice. They learn how to gather information, interview clients, draft documents, and sometimes, even try cases—all with the safety net of a professor and practicing attorney for support.
For many students, clinical situations provide their first encounter with the poor. Working with people whose lives are impacted, and sometimes torn, by things most of us take for granted is a light bulb moment for many. At the same time, they bring students face-to-face with people whose ethnic backgrounds, family upbringing, culture, political beliefs, and lives are very different from theirs. Being able see the law through the lens of a real person opens students to a much broader view of the world, and their role as a servant-leader.
While pro bono is part of every lawyer's professional responsibility, the realities of practice often leave little time for public service. Through clinics, students learn not only to juggle the demands of practice, they learn to make time for the opportunities to help others, so that when they enter practice, it's already part of their routine.
Students find that volunteering to help others does more than change the lives of their clients. It changes theirs. They see the impact of their efforts, and come away with the realization that as lawyers, they can make a difference. Seasoned lawyers often regard the best moments of their career as those spent representing the client who didn't pay them a dime—but the impact on their life was one they will never forget.