Commitment to Service at Baylor Law School by Bridget M. Fuselier, Professor of Law & Executive Director, Veterans Clinic & Joshua Borderud, Director, Veterans Clinic, Trial Advocacy Clinic, and Estate Planning Clinic
Photo Credit: @bayloruniversity
At Baylor Law, we recognize the significant legal needs in the community and have risen to meet the challenge. Our current student population – while less than 400 students – has devoted a substantial number of hours to these efforts. We have several programs and clinics available to students, and student participation in them is spread throughout most of our student population. Veterans Clinic Since September 2012, Baylor Law has offered a pro bono legal clinic to serve a very deserving segment of our community, our veterans. With 19,000 veterans residing in McLennan County, there is great need to provide pro bono legal services to this deserving segment of our population. Since the clinic’s inception, more than 850 veterans have been served by law school faculty, students, and volunteer attorneys in the community. This program has received support from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, and the Litigation and Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Law Sections of the State Bar. The clinics are held on the second Friday of every month. Veterans who have current civil legal problems can meet with a law student and volunteer attorney for a brief advice and counsel session. Some problems may simply require advice and a plan of action, while others may require the opening of a file. If there will be an ongoing legal matter, the Clinic will seek to find a volunteer attorney willing to take on representation of the client or take on the matter in-house and then partner a law student or students with the attorney to work on the case. We cap participation at ten students per clinic so that they each have a meaningful opportunity to participate. While we have repeat volunteers, we try to spread the opportunities out to as many students as possible. Additionally, students also can work on cases that are taken on as a result of the clinic to allow for maximum participation. In addition to the monthly advice and counsel clinics, the Clinic also hosts a special program in honor of Veterans Day. Baylor offers an annual clinic for preparation of wills, powers of attorney and directives to physicians for veterans and their spouses. Law students volunteer at the Veterans Day Clinic to ensure that it runs smoothly. Now with a full-time Director, we are also
engaging in year-round estate planning. The students are directly involved in drafting wills and have the opportunity to be present at the will execution ceremonies. They see the complete picture of what it means to serve a client on a pro bono basis. Pro bono Litigation and Transactional Teams Our pro bono litigation and transactional teams have been designed to accommodate and work with our unique Baylor quarter system and third-year Practice Court program, by enlisting a continuing team of student volunteers ranging from third-quarter students through graduates (who then rotate off the team), with the expectation that the team will consist of approximately nine students at any given time, and of varying experience. Student team members take on increasing responsibility for briefing as they progress through law school, and post-Practice Court team members are given the opportunity to participate (under the supervision of the faculty attorney leader of the team) in any court proceedings which might arise. The litigation team is supervised by Professor Jim Wren and the transactional law team is supervised by Professor Beth Miller and Professor Tom Featherston. This is yet another way we have been able to offer full-fledged pro bono opportunities to our students, which is an important component for the development and staffing of our Baylor law clinic project. Trial Advocacy Clinic The Trial Advocacy Clinic grew out of the Veterans Clinic that was started in 2012. In working with clients from the Veterans Clinic, students have already had the opportunity to represent clients in litigation matters in Justice of the Peace Court and Municipal Court under the supervision of attorneys who are law school faculty and staff. With the hiring of a full-time attorney to work with the Veterans Clinic and other pro bono programming, there was the opportunity to expand the trial advocacy opportunities to assist low income-citizens in the Waco community who are not veterans. Supported by a grant from The Cooper Foundation, this clinic allows students with their third-year bar cards to represent low-income individuals who otherwise would not have representation. The students are directly supervised by an attorney. They have already had opportunities to represent two clients in jury trials and another two clients in reducing fees and penalties in bench trials. A second component of the Trial Advocacy Clinic is a partnership with the juvenile court. In this program students can represent juveniles in their initial detention hearings. The students visit with the juvenile, client, their parents, and present arguments to the court at the hearing to request release of the juveniles. The students must think on their feet and make practical, legally-sound arguments on behalf of the clients. This also provides a much-needed service to the community. Estate Planning Clinic Another program that grew out of the Veterans Clinic Wills Program is the Estate Planning Clinic. Students interested in estate planning and probate are given the opportunity to meet with clients and draft basic wills, transfer on death deeds, powers of attorney, and directives to physicians under attorney supervision. This newly-expanded clinic provides this service for first responders in the Waco-McLennan County community. The students can complete an entire matter for a client from beginning to end which helps the student as well as provides a valuable service to the client.