Baylor Law Expands Clinical Programs with $60,000 Grant from the Cooper Foundation

November 14, 2017

Baylor Law Expands Clinical Programs with $60,000 Grant from the Cooper Foundation

Lena Proft and Renson Abraham making an argument
Recent Baylor Law graduate Lena Proft and third-year student Renson Abraham in municipal court.

WACO, Texas -

Baylor Law is expanding its clinical programming through its new Trial Advocacy Clinic with a $60,000 grant from the Cooper Foundation of Waco.

The newly created Trial Advocacy Clinic allows third-year Baylor Law students to represent low-income Waco area residents in municipal citation cases that are set for trial, primarily in Waco Municipal Court. Under the supervision of the Trial Advocacy Clinic director Josh Borderud, JD '09, this legal representation seeks to reduce the occurrence and impact of fines, surcharges, license suspensions, warrants, and other consequences that can keep local residents from obtaining and maintaining employment and meeting their obligations.

The Trial Advocacy Clinic grew out of the Veterans Clinic, where students have represented veterans in litigation matters under the supervision of Baylor Law faculty and staff attorneys since 2012. With the hire of Borderud in 2016 as a full-time attorney to direct the Veterans Clinic and other clinical programs, the capacity to expand student litigation opportunities increased.

The Cooper Foundation grant provides funding for the expansion of the Trial Advocacy Clinic. This is the first grant awarded to Baylor Law to assist low-income citizens in the Waco area, regardless of military service. With the grant distributed over a three-year period, the funds, designated for clinic personnel, will enable the clinic to grow.

Josh Borderud and Lena Proft, along with Renson Abraham
Trial Advocacy Clinic Director Josh Borderud (center) with recent Baylor Law graduate Lena Proft and third-year student Renson Abraham. Proft and Abraham represented a single mother in the clinic's first trial.
"Since there is no constitutional right to a court-appointed attorney in municipal citation cases, most people are forced to represent themselves," said Borderud. "With this generous grant from the Cooper Foundation and our partnership with Waco Municipal Court, we will further prepare our students for the practice of law by meeting this need and representing those who could not otherwise afford a lawyer."
Law Student Abraham makes his point clear in court

In the inaugural trial for the clinic, recent graduate Lena Proft and third-year student Renson Abraham represented a single mother of five facing an unsecured child citation. Utilizing their State Bar of Texas temporary trial cards, they cross-examined two police officers, questioned the client and her daughter on direct examination, and delivered the closing argument. The judge was moved by their presentation of sympathetic evidence and fined the mother only one dollar and then cut her court costs in half.

In addition to the Veterans Clinic, the Trial Advocacy Clinic joins the ranks of other Baylor Law clinical programs that give law students practical experience in solving the legal problems of those in need, including the Immigration Clinic, the Estate Planning Clinic, and the Intellectual Property Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic.

"We believe that it is our duty as professionals to assist our neighbors in their time of need. With so many of our fellow Americans unable to afford legal services, we believe it is a key part of our mission at Baylor Law to educate our students about the importance of pro bono work," said Dean Brad Toben. "We hope that, in serving citizens in need, we will ignite a fire in the hearts of our Baylor Law students that will grow as they move forward in their legal careers."

For more information on the Baylor Law Trial Advocacy Clinic, please contact clinic staff at 254-710-4244 or

Written by: Joshua Weaver, Baylor Law School
Contributors: Berkley Knas, Bethany Harper, Casi Bowers
Photos by: Nick Teixeira, Baylor Law School
MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
PHONE: 254-710-6681

Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #3 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #51 in the magazine's 2018 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions Learn more at

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