Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman applauded the initiative as a crucial step in improving access to justice.
Texas Tech School of Law Dean Darby Dickerson was joined by Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman at a news conference Monday (Aug. 31) to announce the law school's new public service graduation requirement.
Beginning this fall, new law students must complete at least 30 public-service hours before graduation. Half of those hours must be earned through pro bono legal services and half through pro bono legal service or non-legal community service. Students are required to give at least 10 hours each year until the requirement is fulfilled.
“We know students who start giving back early see the benefit and give much more than required,” Dickerson said.
The initiative also requires Texas Tech Law faculty to perform at least 10 hours of public service each academic year.
“We know there is tremendous unmet legal need around the state,” Dickerson said. “We hope to help with that issue while allowing our students to see the true impact their skills and talents can have on the lives of individuals and to gain hands-on learning from practicing lawyers and judges.”
Guzman, who serves as the Texas Supreme Court's liaison to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said the initiative will help to assist the 6 million Texans who lack equal access to justice.
“Texas Tech Law has taken a critical, commendable step by instilling public service in our future lawyers,” Guzman said. “As a civilized society based on the rule of law, all our citizens must have access to justice, and lawyers have a professional responsibility to uphold this promise. By helping to increase access to the courts, Texas Tech students help ensure the poor experience the benefits of our exceptional legal system.”
Guzman discussed the importance of serving, growing and adapting in a changing legal world as the featured speaker for the law school's Academy for Leadership in the Legal Profession, a program that equips students to become leaders in the legal profession, business and the community.
Nick Goettsche, a third-year law student who serves as Student Bar Association president and chief justice of the Texas Tech University Supreme Court, said, “I am proud to support this student-backed initiative. Texas Tech Law prides itself on grooming practice-ready graduates, and this public service requirement is an opportunity to do just that while improving the public's image of our profession.”
Betty Balli Torres, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation in Austin, attended the news conference to support the new initiative.
“We applaud Texas Tech University School of Law and their leadership in making a commitment to equal justice for all,” Torres said. “The individuals and communities that will benefit from pro bono service will be changed for the better, as will the lives of the students.”
Texas Tech Law is the 42nd of 205 American Bar Association-approved law schools to launch a similar graduation requirement. The law school has a longstanding tradition of public service with seven live-client clinics that give approximately 17,000 hours of service each year, alumni who are distinguished public servants and individual student volunteers who have given more than 3,000 public service hours in the last year. Texas Tech Law also is home to the Caprock Regional Public Defender Office, the only combined full-time, in-house public defender's office and law school clinic in the country.