South Texas College of Law

 

General Civil Clinic Program

 Rockwell Fund has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with South Texas College of Law (STCL), a private, nonprofit law school founded in 1923. STCL's mission is to provide an accessible legal education, distinguished by its excellence, to a diverse body of students committed to serving their communities and the profession.

Since 1965, Rockwell has funded STCL projects ranging from scholarships to library expansion. In 2001, Rockwell approached the school with a proposal to expand STCL's General Civil Clinic, which has been providing representation to indigent residents of the Houston metropolitan area since 1990. Now named the Civil Practice Clinics, the project traditionally focused on indigent Social Security, disability, and family law issues. Rockwell offered to fund the Clinic's expansion to include legal assistance to battered or homeless women. Rockwell's support included funding for attorney salaries, office space and attendant overhead.

In addition to operating expenses, Rockwell funded litigation costs. As a Clinic staff member pointed out, the threat of litigation is an empty one if your opponent knows that you cannot fund it. As such, part of Rockwell's giving strategy with STCL is to provide funds for these litigation expenses.

Rockwell Fund's support of the Civil Practice Clinics has two goals: providing real world experience to STCL students and helping battered or homeless women to resolve domestic relations issues. Over time, the Clinic has expanded to reach other populations in need such as the homeless, intimate partner violence survivors, youth aging out of protective services, families with special education needs or guardianship challenges, and veterans. On any given day, clinic students may be found attending Individualize Education Planning meetings for students with disabilities, facilitating guardianship, supporting veterans with navigating and obtaining benefits, providing probate advice, or litigating restraining orders against violent abusers.

In more recent years efforts at the Clinic have diversified in exciting ways.  The Clinic has added three Fellows to its staff to further its mission of helping the working poor and vulnerable populations with access to legal needs. These Fellows are newly licensed lawyers who spend up to three years in service with the Clinic.  Fellows not only serve clients, but they also teach a class and support a student cohort in working on special issues like guardianship, public benefits, family law, and supports for those aging out of the child protective services system. The clinic also created intensive pro bono student opportunities designed to address special-needs populations. In addition to fellows and student engagement, the Clinic has hired two full-time staff attorneys to balance operational needs like identifying and maintaining sources for client recruitment.  Finally, the Clinic has also expanded into community education, offering specialized legal training on important public interest law areas like advocating for foster youth and understanding special education services in schools.

 Rockwell Fund's investment in the Clinic's expansion now totals over $2 million, with the Clinic handling over 150 cases in this area. One client, a survivor of intimate partner violence, offered the following sentiment: "Words can never express 'thank you' for giving me my peace back … I will never forget what the staff and philanthropists did for me. I now believe in new beginnings. God bless!"

 

 

South Texas _1
College faculty discussing a case with
student in the General Civil Clinic.