St. Mary’s University School of Law proudly offers four outstanding clinical courses for second- and third-year law students: the Civil Justice Clinic-Consumer Protection, Civil Justice Clinic-Family Law, the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic and the Criminal Justice Clinic course.
The clinical courses are dedicated to educating students at St. Mary’s while addressing the otherwise unmet legal needs of income-qualified people in San Antonio and South Texas.
Being a student attorney
Student attorneys gain practical, hands-on experience in all aspects of case-handling in each of the clinical courses under the direct supervision of a member of the faculty. They interview and counsel clients, investigate facts to obtain and organize evidence, draft legal documents, negotiate with opposing counsel and administrative agencies and try actual cases in district, county and administrative courts.
Serving the community
Student attorneys enjoy hands-on advocacy and guide their clients through the legal system by keeping them updated on their cases, explaining the applicable law, preparing them for trial and representing them in different forums. The Clinical Program gives student attorneys a direct opportunity to use their skills to aid individuals in critical need. Through their clinical work, students at St. Mary’s provide significant service to the community by augmenting the legal resources available to serve the people in San Antonio and South Texas.
The commitment required
The clinical work at St. Mary’s consists of a classroom component and a casework component. The classroom segment includes lectures, discussions, group exercises and simulations. In the classroom, student attorneys learn the substantive law and lawyering skills necessary for the effective and ethical handling of the cases. For their individual cases, student attorneys must commit to regular office hours and legal outreach, in addition to their classroom time. During the academic year, each clinic is one semester long and six credit hours. Second semester or summer options are sometimes available for three or four credits.
Civil Justice Clinics
The Civil Justice Clinic-Consumer Protection and Civil Justice Clinic-Family Law are experiential, practice-based courses for credit, which combine academic rigor with actual experience. We are a working law office where student attorneys represent income-qualified clients in legal matters, with close supervision by law faculty.
The Civil Justice Clinics offer an introduction to one or more areas of civil litigation, as well as essential lawyering skills such as interviewing and counseling, case planning and discovery.
In addition to work on real cases, the Civil Justice Clinic includes a classroom component covering substantive law and lawyering skills. The classroom component includes lectures, discussions, group exercises, and simulations to help students prepare for legal practice.
In the family law practice area, student attorneys represent clients in state court with divorces, child custody, visitation, adoptions and name changes. Student attorneys also draft simple wills and represent clients in probate cases. Faculty: Clinical Professor of Law Dayla S. Pepi
In the consumer protection practice area, student attorneys protect clients from abusive and unfair sales practices, including fraudulent home sales and repairs, auto repossessions, wrongful evictions and debt collection. Student attorneys represent clients in state district, probate and municipal and federal court. Faculty: Clinical Professor of Law Genevieve Hébert Fajardo
Who can participate
The Civil Justice Clinics are open to second- and third-year students, with preference given to students with 45 or more credit hours (the credit hour requirement for a Student Bar Card).
Criminal Justice Clinic
The Criminal Justice Clinic provides students who enroll in the for-credit course with the opportunity to gain substantive knowledge and practical legal skills by representing income-qualified clients — juveniles and adults — who are charged with criminal offenses ranging from misdemeanors to capital offenses.
Some of the types of cases students handle include:
- driving while intoxicated
- possession of controlled substances, and
Students represent individuals in jury trials, contested motions and plea negotiations. Students also participate in appellate brief writing and oral arguments before the Fourth Courts of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and even the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Within the Criminal Justice Clinic, students have an opportunity to challenge wrongful convictions through the writ of habeas corpus process.
A Texas State Student Bar practice card is necessary to participate in the representation of clients in court in Texas. Students with at least 45 hours of legal study completed at the start of the clinical program are eligible to participate.
The clinic experience includes weekly classes on Texas criminal procedure, the rules of evidence, professional responsibility, as well as practical advice.
Students are required to participate in weekly courtroom simulations to prepare for trial. For example, students will prepare and deliver opening statements and closing arguments and cross-examine witnesses in a mock setting to learn and improve advocacy skills.
Immigration and Human Rights Clinic
The Immigration and Human Rights Clinic introduces students to the practice of law through the supervised representation of income-qualified immigrants and refugees in proceedings before Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and federal courts.
This for-credit course is open to second- and third-year students who learn to:
- interview and counsel clients
- develop case strategy
- prepare applications
- gather and organize evidence
- draft motions and briefs, and
- appear on behalf of their clients before the agency and courts
The clinic caseload includes a variety of immigration and nationality issues, including the defense of immigrants in removal proceedings, applications for asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), adjustment of status, claims to U.S. citizenship and benefits available to crime victims.
In addition, students are expected to participate in broader community service, which most recently has involved working with pro bono agencies assisting families detained in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas. It is strongly recommended that students enrolled in the clinic during the fall or spring terms have completed or be concurrently taking the Immigration Law course.
The classroom component of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic course includes a practice-oriented examination of complex immigration law and specially tailored exercises and simulations designed to instill the basics of good legal practice. The classwork focuses on issues regularly encountered in the clinic’s case work, allowing students an opportunity to analyze the legal and social impediments to their cases, as well as a chance to develop and reflect on the strategic choices they make.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Law Erica Schommer