DALLAS – A $50,000 grant from a group of North Texas area philanthropists supports students at the UNT Dallas College of Law to gain critically important practical experience while helping underserved communities access the justice system.
Through the grant, the UNT Dallas College of Law Community Lawyering Centers (CLC) provide individuals and families with free legal representation for court hearings involving child support, custody disputes, and other legal matters. The grant was provided by Hamilton Wingo law firm founder Chris Hamilton, Hamilton Wingo partner Anne Hamilton, JM Williams Group, Tillotson Law Firm, and trial attorney Lisa Blue.
“I believe in this program and the work the faculty and students are doing for the Dallas community,” says Mr. Hamilton. “It is a blessing to help provide to this grant for four consecutive years; it shows that when it comes to justice and doing what is right, we are all standing on the same side.”
The grant supports many of the UNT Community Lawyering Center’s initiatives, including the salary of Professor Gabriela Sotelo, who supervises law students. Participating students have represented 65 individuals who would not otherwise qualify for legal representation due to their immigration status or ability to afford the cost of a lawyer. The students have represented individuals in the following court proceedings since its inception:
- 80 court hearings
- 16 hearings involving the representation of non-custodial parents in child support matters
- 48 hearings representing children or indigent caregivers in child protection or custody matters
- 170 client and applicant interviews, including 48 child interviews
- 13 student-conducted negotiations
“I’m proud of the commitment and hard work of the students to serve individuals who would otherwise not have the means for legal representation,” said Professor Sotelo. “I’m grateful to work with talented students in serving these communities.”
The program also opened the door for the South Dallas virtual self-represented clinic, which provides guidance and information to individuals involved in small-claims cases, including landlord-tenant issues, probate proceedings, and civil suits in Dallas County. In addition to the virtual clinics, a South Dallas non-custodial parent-child support workshop allowed students to present information about child support, the factors impacting child support, and the enforcement of child support orders.
“The services and opportunities provided by the UNT College of Law Community Lawyering Centers, the students and faculty are a testament to all of those involved in helping individuals who otherwise would have no other place to go,” said Ms. Blue. “It’s imperative that we provide assistance to programs that support underserved communities with the resources and education needed to help their cases.”
UNT College of Law students have also volunteered for the Dallas County Child Protection and Permanency Court, Dallas County Legacy Court, immigration advocacy assistance, Dallas Housing Authority Teen Influencers Initiative, and other outreach activities.
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