Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Texas Tech program pairs law students with poor rural clients who are unable to afford an attorney

A program at Texas Tech University sends law students to poor rural areas to help students gain valuable court experience while helping rural residents get the representation they sorely need but can't afford, Josie Musico reports for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "Texas Tech School of Law’s Caprock Regional Public Defender Office sends third-year students to try or plea-bargain criminal cases in a dozen or so rural counties. Clients have been ruled indigent, or lacking funds to pay for a private attorney." (Musico photo: Texas Tech law faculty member Donnie Yandell reviews a case with third-year student Sydne Collier)

"The program is funded through a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission," Musico writes. "It bills participating counties significantly less than what those counties would have to pay practicing attorneys to work as public defenders."

The student lawyers, who have permission do everything a lawyer does except talk to the judge without a supervising attorney, typically represent clients "charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies," Musico writes. Steven Chapa, a student participant, told Musico, “I like the fact that I get to help people, and at the same time it’s gonna help me when I open up my law firm." (Read more)

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