The proposed Legal Student internships/volunteer with community legal clinics project is designed to develop periodic legal clinics offering guidance through the legal system, professional legal advice, and assistance in completing filings and documents for members of our surrounding communities who are economically or otherwise disadvantaged. Our goal is three-fold: to provide students with hands-on legal assistant experience; and to support Amarillo College students as well as community members who do not typically have access to legal advice or aid.
A. This project target three groups:
- Amarillo College students. This project will further the mission of Amarillo College by enriching the lives of our students achieve their educational goals. The mission of Amarillo College is to obtain a 70% completion rate by 2020. This program will facilitate this mission by removing one of the barriers to learning. The barrier is legal issues that plague many students who do not have the funds to afford an attorney. According to a recent survey, % of Amarillo Independent School District students live in poverty. % of these students attend Amarillo College. The Amarillo College student profile indicates that 55% of the students receive some type of financial aid to attend AC. It follows that many of our students cannot afford or access legal advice or assistance. In light of these statistics, this project is germane to Amarillo College student success.
This project will promote awareness by working with other groups on campus to educate Amarillo College students in legal issues affecting them. This project could join with various Amarillo College departments including but not limited to the Education department, Criminal Justice department, Nursing department, Career Services, Business departments to provide the legal aspect of subjects addressed by these areas. This project seeks to assists those students regarding matters which may interfere with their student achievement of educational goals, thus making it easier for them to focus on their studies.
Specific examples of Amarillo College Students who would benefit from this project:
- Amarillo College student, “Linda”, is a first generation college student. She works full time and attends classes part-time. Her schooling is being paid for through loans and PELL grants. She is the single mother of three children. She is having problems with her landlord. Under the current scheme, I refer her to an attorney who may or not be able to help her. This attorney will require a retainer before he can help her. This program would allow us to say yes to Linda.
- Amarillo College student, “Jason” has custody of his 7 year old daughter. Pursuant to court order, the mother is to pay child support but has not in over three (3) years. Jason works full time and attends classes part-time. He cannot afford to meet with an attorney to discuss his legal options.
This program would allow us to assist “Linda” and “Jason” in addressing the presented legal issues.
- Amarillo College Legal Studies Students: Amarillo College Legal Studies students will benefit from this project. The students will gain hands-on experience working in their field of study by with legal clients in our community. The hands-on experience will enhance students’ listening and interviewing skills; allow students to practice the professional, legal, and ethical guidelines required of legal assistants; develop student working relationships with local attorneys; and, to see, first-hand, the importance of precision and an error-free word product. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to make a direct contribution to their community through this effort. Study shows that students who obtain practical hands-on experience in their field of study have a higher likelihood of remaining in their chosen profession and higher success rates in gaining and maintaining employment in their career field. (need stats)
AC Legal Studies student, “Sharon”, has just enrolled in her first legal studies course. She is excited about the prospect of working in a law field but apprehensive about whether or not she wants to pursue a career in the legal field. This project will arm “Sharon with the tools necessary to succeed in Legal Studies and in the legal profession. Early hands-on experience in her chosen field of study creates the higher probability that she will remain in the field of study and that she will be successful in gaining and maintaining employment in this career field.
- Amarillo Community:
Community members will benefit in two main ways. First, this project will promote opportunities for local attorneys to provide pro bono legal assistance. Second, this project will have legal studies students, working under an attorney, focus on client needs and cases that might not otherwise receive such attention. Additionally, these clinics will serve to educate the public about the legal process; to encourage self-advocacy and remind members of the public when to seek professional legal advice or assistance; and, to achieve a greater understanding of the rights and responsibilities afforded to members of our community under the law.
For example, Project Director participates in a monthly community service project with the Tyler Resource Center. One of the residents there, “Mary” has three children and wants to know how to get a divorce from the children’s father, whom she has not seen in over two (2) years. This project would benefit “Mary” by educating her about her options and also having a legal studies students, working under an attorney, focus on their needs and cases that might not otherwise receive such attention.
For example, a Veteran “Jason” is unclear on what his legal rights are as they relate to housing and estate planning. Jason could attend Veteran’s workshop to learn about these topics and work with a pro bono attorney through this program to assist him in his legal complexities.
- Community legal clinics will be developed based upon assessed need, in addition to our ability to gather the appropriate resources to professionally address the legal concerns of our clients. We anticipate offering clinics in the areas of domestic violence, pro se divorce and family law matters, entrepreneurship, housing, wills and probate, immigration, or special education advocacy.
Client Selection Process:
Clients served will be the poor and disadvantaged from within the local community.
Clients served will be Amarillo College students.
Students served will be community college students in the Legal Studies program.
Students will be selected based upon enrollment in the Legal Studies program specifically the Introduction to Law and Legal Profession at Amarillo College
Clients will be selected through established organizations such as Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.