Baylor Law Launches Family Law Clinic to Empower Self-Represented Litigants
Baylor Law Anticipates Serving Clients Beginning Fall 2024
Baylor Law announces the launch of its Family Law Clinic, set to begin operation in fall 2024. This clinic aims to provide vital support to pro se litigants in navigating the complexities of family law cases, focusing on divorce and matters affecting parent-child relationships. Created with financial assistance from the Texas Bar Foundation, the clinic will address the increasing trend of self-representation among divorce litigants, especially those facing literacy and language barriers. Baylor Law students, faculty, and volunteer attorneys have served over 1,500 Central Texans through its legal clinics over the past few years. The Family Law Clinic joins Baylor Law’s six other clinics that promote the Law School’s mission of service and access to justice, including the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, Estate Planning Clinics, Immigration Clinic, Intellectual Property Law Clinic, Trial Advocacy Clinic, and Veterans Clinics.
Recent studies have shown a growing number of clients, regardless of their socioeconomic background, are choosing to represent themselves in family law matters. While resources like TexasLawHelp.org have introduced self-help divorce forms to assist pro se litigants, challenges persist. Baylor Law created the Family Law Clinic, led by Baylor Law Professor Stephanie Tang, to address this issue.
Professor Tang, who joined Baylor Law in May 2022, brings a wealth of experience from her six years of practice in family law, including her involvement in Chicago’s pro bono community. Her commitment to access to justice and her dedication to assisting pro se litigants became the driving force behind the creation of the Family Law Clinic. Through her work in legal advice clinics, she recognized that many clients struggled to understand legal procedures and the implications of the documents they were asked to complete. These struggles often led to failing to complete the correct form, failing to provide the court with key evidence, and other mistakes that delayed the proceedings or increased the likelihood of enforcement issues.
“We are honored to be able to offer the Family Law Clinic at Baylor,” noted Professor Tang. “The clinic will be run out of the McLennan County Courthouse and assist pro se litigants in drafting and reviewing often confusing legal documents in preparation for family court proceedings.”
To develop the clinic, Professor Tang collaborated closely with 74th District Judge Gary Coley and 414th District Judge Vicki Menard, who currently manage most of the family court docket in McLennan County. Her proposal received unanimous approval from the Baylor Law faculty and enthusiastic support from several local non-profit organizations.
The Family Law Clinic will offer two avenues for pro se litigants to seek assistance. First, the clinic will hold monthly walk-in hours at the courthouse. During these hours, local volunteer attorneys and law students will offer on-site guidance to help pro se litigants navigate the legal system and understand the implications of their actions. Recognizing the diverse community in McLennan County, the clinic is committed to translating its forms into Spanish to overcome language barriers. Second, the clinic will offer appointments to pro se litigants via phone or email to assist them in representing themselves. The clinic will help pro se litigants with immediate legal concerns and provide resources and guidance for post-divorce tasks to reduce the need for ongoing litigation.
In addition to providing direct assistance to pro se litigants, the clinic will play an essential role in the ongoing experiential learning of current Baylor Law students. Regular training sessions will cover clinic policies and procedures, working with families in crisis, and practical experience in dealing with common family law issues.
Professor Tang, who is licensed to practice law in Texas and Illinois, will serve as the clinic’s faculty supervisor. She will lead the training sessions, oversee clinic operations, and recruit student and attorney volunteers. A part-time administrative assistant will facilitate client intake and streamline the process for potential clients.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $26 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.