The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

Main menu:

Jan. 15, 2004

Press Contact: Allegra Young, UT Law, 512-471-7330

Bill Allison, ’71, to Lead Criminal Defense Clinic

High-profile criminal defense attorney to supervise students' defense of those facing misdemeanor jury trials

William P. Allison
William P. Allison
Photo Credit: Wyatt McSpadden
used by permission

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin School of Law announced today that William P. Allison, class of 1971, will return to the Criminal Defense Clinic as its Director starting January 15. Allison, who was named the "Best Defense Lawyer of the Year," (2000-2001) by the Criminal Justice Section of the State Bar of Texas, one of Texas' "Super Lawyers" by Texas Monthly magazine, and in Woodward and Whites’ The Best Lawyers in America, will manage the Law School's oldest clinic.

In this new capacity, Allison will help students' defend persons charged with criminal misdemeanor offenses. Allison previously worked with the clinic as a supervising attorney for 27 years, in addition to maintaining a private legal practice.

“The Law School is delighted that Bill Allison will lead the Criminal Defense Clinic. He brings with him a wealth of experience, a time-tested presence in the courts, and a true commitment to students' education,” said UT Law Dean Bill Powers.

“From the very beginning, the goal of the Criminal Defense Clinic has been the legal education of our students through actually practicing law. They learn how the true facts of the case usually determine the outcome. They learn that when we, as trial lawyers, talk about the facts of the case, we do not mean facts that are summarized in two paragraphs as they are in the appellate decisions that have been their steady diets for at least a year and a half,” said Allison.

“For almost 30 years now, these students have come back to us over and over to say two things: this was the best course I ever took, and, it made all my other courses so much more interesting. Clinics are not supposed to replace academic courses, rather they are to show the students, some of whom are ‘burning out’ on the process, that the law, the procedure, the philosophy and the analytical skills they have learned really are important to getting the job done. Without the clinics, many of these students would not know just how good their basic legal education has been and just how good they really are when given a chance to apply it,” Allison said.

Allison has practiced and taught law in Austin, Texas for 32 years. After graduating from The University of Texas School of Law in 1971, he began his legal career in the Community Legal Services Program, a law office sponsored by the Law School. After the Travis County Legal Aid and Defender Society absorbed that program, he became a Legal Aid lawyer. In 1975 he was recruited to be a full time lecturer at the Law School, teaching and supervising students in Criminal Defense Clinic, founded by UT Law professor Robert Dawson in 1974. In 1977, Allison took one of the Clinic's cases, one dealing with First Amendment law, to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. That year he also started his first private practice in Austin, concentrating on federal and state criminal defense work. In 1978 Allison began to also teach trial advocacy at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and to date has taught more than 50 one- to three-week trial advocacy courses around the nation and in other law schools.

In the fall of 2002, Allison retired from the Criminal Defense Clinic. Recent highlights in his private practice include exonerations in two high-profile cases (Christopher Ochoa and Carlos Lavernia). Just this past November, Allison won a $5.3 million settlement for Mr. Ochoa, a Travis County man wrongfully convicted for murder. Mr. Ochoa spent 12 years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence. In the Ochoa case, Allison's investigation found police officers coerced a confession from Ochoa and failed to act in a timely manner regarding a confession from the real perpetrator.

About the Criminal Defense Clinic at The University of Texas at Austin

Since its founding in 1974, The University of Texas at Austin School of Law's Criminal Defense Clinic has taught more than 2,000 students, including many leaders of the Texas criminal justice system. Notable graduates of the clinic include such luminaries as Johnny Sutton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, Judge Paul Womack of the Criminal Court of Appeals, Judge Mike Lynch of Travis County, U.S. Magistrate for the Western District of Texas Robert Pitman. The clinic, which focuses on misdemeanor offenses, has supervised student handling of more than 7,200 criminal cases.