Randall O. Sorrel Legal Clinics
To serve the immediate needs of the underrepresented while helping to develop compassionate and capable future attorneys.
The Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics at South Texas College of Law Houston provides law students with opportunities to interview, counsel, and advise low-income clients. The clinic’s mission: to provide students with hands-on opportunities to build and enhance their lawyering skills while developing a sense of professional identity and community responsibility.
By any standard, they have succeeded in their goal. Students mediate more than 150 disputes and assist with filing more than 40 trademark applications annually. Each year, students in the Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics provide more than 35,600 hours of free legal services valued at nearly $2 million to more than 300 Houston residents.
In recognition of this success, the clinic has won the annual ATJ Law School Commitment to Service Award several times. This award, given by the Texas Access to Justice Commission, “honors a law school that has carried forward one of the finest traditions of the legal profession by actively educating its students about access to justice issues.” Trish McAllister, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, said, “The Commission recognizes the commitment to the provision of legal services to the poor by South Texas College of Law Houston as truly exceptional.”
South Texas received the award primarily because of the innovative consolidation of its academic clinical program and pro bono initiatives. After renovating an entire floor of the school in 2013, STCL Houston opened the state-of-the-art Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics. It pairs law school faculty and staff with students who gain firsthand experience while learning about the challenges marginalized Texans face in obtaining access to justice.
The Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics now is home to 23 separate, specialized legal clinics — eight more than any other Texas law school — that offer free legal assistance for low-income populations throughout the Houston metropolitan area.
The Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics started in 1990 with a focus on helping the disabled secure benefits. Then-Dean William Wilks made it a mission to implement clinical training for South Texas students, adding to the thriving internship program. Over the next two decades, the focus and structure of the clinics changed to meet the need of the community. The hallmark of the clinical program is their ability to be responsive to the community needs and the shifting legal needs.” The clinical program has included an HIV/AIDS clinic, probate, guardianships, family law, estate planning, death penalty clinics, and a VAWA clinic. Catherine Greene Burnett, STCL Houston vice president, associate dean, and professor who has directed the law school’s clinical program since its inception in 1990, states, “We've always tried to provide exposure for students to the range of cases they would likely encounter in small or solo practices as well as experience in hot topic areas.”
Texas Supreme Court Justices Eva Guzman ’89 — an STCL Houston alumna — said, “The [Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics] are truly visionary. They not only serve the immediate needs of the underrepresented, but they also help develop compassionate and capable future attorneys.
“Time and again, South Texas College of Law Houston has demonstrated its abiding commitment to ‘Equal Justice for All,’” she noted. “The law school’s devotion to the rule of law and dedication to enhancing access to justice have empowered many, transformed lives, and ensured that the next generation of lawyers will pursue justice.”
Belinda J. Martinez - Disaster Pro Bono at Lone Star Legal Aid