The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

Main menu:

October 3, 2006

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or kfortune@law.utexas.edu
Clinic Contact: Heather Way, Director, Community Development Clinic, 512-232-1210

UT Law Establishes Community Development Clinic

First Clinic at the Law School Focused on Transactional and Business Law

Tour of an East Austin community development project
Martinez (back row, left) and Way (far right) with clinic students on a tour of an East Austin community development project.

AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas School of Law has created a new Community Development Clinic that provides students with a unique opportunity to develop transactional legal skills while addressing systemic causes of poverty.

Clinic students represent nonprofit organizations and individuals involved in community development. Students provide business law services to support sustainable economic development through job creation, affordable housing, and asset building strategies. Typical legal projects involve real estate, tax, contract, and nonprofit incorporation matters.

The Community Development Clinic is directed by attorney Heather Way, a 1996 graduate of UT Law, who co-teaches the clinic with attorney Frances Leos Martinez. The clinic is the result of collaboration between the Law School and Texas Community Building With Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR). Texas C-BAR is a statewide, transactional pro bono project of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid that delivers free legal services to nonprofit organizations serving low-income communities and individuals and to micro enterprises and low-income owners of small businesses. Way founded Texas C-BAR in 2000 and served as its first director. Martinez was appointed as director in 2004.

"This new clinic gives our students who are interested in business law a tremendous opportunity to develop their transactional lawyering skills," said UT Law Professor Mechele Dickerson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. "While most of the clinical opportunities the law school provides focus on litigation, the Community Development Clinic will allow our students to hone their business law skills and at the same time help low-income communities with their redevelopment efforts."

The Law School has a large clinical program, with 13 separate clinics and seven internship courses offering students the opportunity to integrate theory and substantive law with hands-on experience representing clients. The clinical program has expanded significantly in the last few years, and nearly half of the student body now participates in a clinic or internship prior to graduation. The Community Development Clinic is the first clinic at the Law School focused on transactional and business law.

Way was named Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas by the Texas Young Lawyers Association in 2002. While at the Law School, she was associate editor of the Texas Law Review, received the Order of the Coif, was named Grand Chancellor, and graduated with high honors. Following graduation she clerked for U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice. She received a Skadden Fellowship to work for two years at Legal Aid of Central Texas in Austin, and Legal Aid then hired her as a staff attorney and she founded Texas C-BAR.

Martinez has served as the executive director of Texas C-BAR since 2004. She graduated from Stanford Law School in 1990, and clerked for U.S. District Judge Filemon B. Vela. She was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work in the Colonias Project of Texas Rural Legal Aid. In 1995, Martinez founded the Community Development Clinic of St. Mary's University Law School, where she served as a Clinical Professor until 2001 when she began working for the McAuley Institute on community development issues. In 2003 Martinez became the Director of Make It Your Own, a women's homebuilding initiative, and served in that position until coming to Texas C-BAR.

Related Links: