Students in the Legal Studies Program at Amarillo College will be getting more topical, real-life experience this fall than ever before, and the beneficiaries will be many.
Legal studies students will henceforth staff the AC Legal Clinic on weekdays, providing free legal assistance exclusively for members of AC’s student body and the AC workforce.
Also beginning this fall, students in the Introduction to Law and Legal Profession class are required as part of their coursework to serve as primary staff at periodic workshops designed to assist low-income Panhandle residents who do not typically have access to legal services or aid.
These clients must be referred to the workshops by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, a supporting partner of the effort. Between five and eight workshops will be scheduled per semester, each specific to a single area of need: family/divorce, immigration, veterans’ benefits, housing, etc.
The first such workshop, dealing with divorce issues, is on Sept. 27, and students are already hard at work drafting documents related to specific cases submitted by Legal Aid.
The AC Legal Clinic, where the workshops will also take place, is housed in the Legal Studies Department. It is located on the third floor of the Byrd Business Building at AC’s Washington Street Campus.
All these services are the result of a grant AC received last May from the Texas Bar Foundation to add service-learning components to the legal studies curriculum. Both the AC Legal Clinic and the workshops will be overseen by bar-certified lawyers whose services, though largely pro bono, are afforded in part by the grant.
“We are excited about helping our students learn optimally and at the same time lending vital assistance to those in need,” Robin Malone, AC legal studies coordinator, said. “Legal Studies majors, most of whom want to become paralegals, will get valuable hands-on experience interviewing clients, drafting documents, and even observing attorneys render legal advice.
“They also will be providing a valuable community service to low-income clients who have no other legal recourse,” Malone said. “So many in the Panhandle community, and even within our own student body, face legal issues but cannot afford an attorney to help them navigate the process.”
Only AC students and employees can utilize the Clinic. It is designed to serve drop-ins from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and is open Fridays by appointment only. Phone 345-5551.
Students, faculty and staff are invited to attend an Open House of the AC Legal Clinic from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Sept. 20. Bruce Moseley, clinical legal education advisor for the Clinic and adjunct professor of clinical law, invites the AC community to not only stop by for a look-see, but to go ahead and bring their legal problems to the Clinic’s attention at that time.
“We want everyone to know where we are located and what we have to offer,” Moseley said. “But the bottom line is that we are here to help those in need of legal assistance, and there is no time like the present to get the ball rolling.”
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $16 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.