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September 30, 2004

Press Contacts: Laura Figueroa, Commission, (512) 320-0099, ext. 14, Mobile: (512) 659-4750; Alan Hunt, Baylor Law, (254) 710-6271; Eden Harrington, UT Law, (512) 232-7068.

Equal Justice Scholarships to be Announced

WHAT: Press conference on the establishment of Equal Justice Scholarships
WHERE: Supreme Court of Texas Courtroom, 201 West 14th Street, Austin, Texas
WHEN: Tuesday, October 5, 2004; 10:00 a.m.

AUSTIN, Texas — The William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law at The University of Texas School of Law and Baylor University School of Law, in partnership with the Texas Access to Justice Commission, will announce the establishment of Equal Justice Scholarships at a press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at the Supreme Court of Texas.

Speakers will include Supreme Court of Texas Justice Harriet O’Neill, James B. Sales, a 1960 alumnus of UT Law and Chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Bill Powers, Dean of The University of Texas School of Law, and Brad Toben, Dean of Baylor University School of Law.

The Equal Justice Scholarships will cover law school tuition for students who commit to practicing law at legal aid organizations for at least three years. The scholarships are collectively valued at more than $200,000.

Research shows that the rising cost of law school debt often prohibits new attorneys from pursuing public interest careers. According to a recent study, law school graduates carry an average of $77,000 in school loan debt. Yet, the average entry-level salary for a legal aid attorney is approximately $36,000 per year. The scholarships will allow students to graduate free of tuition debt, and afford them the opportunity to utilize their talents to provide free legal services to Texas' most vulnerable residents.

It is estimated that, due to limited funding, legal aid meets only about 25 percent of the civil legal needs of poor Texans. The Texas Access to Justice Commission, created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001, has developed a five-year strategic plan aimed at increasing resources for legal aid. Strategies include the development of an endowment campaign, broadening the base of support for legal aid, and working with law schools to encourage more law students to pursue legal aid careers. The Commission hopes eventually to include all Texas law schools in the effort to expand delivery of legal services to indigent Texans.

Related Links:
UT Law Establishes William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law:
Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation:
Texas Access to Justice Commission:
Free Texas legal information: