Legal groups across Texas have created innovative ways for lawyers to help fill the access to justice gap in rural areas. “There are fewer lawyers in rural communities to help meet the need on a pro bono basis,” said Trish McAllister, executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission. “Coupled with geographic challenges, people have limited access to a lawyer or a legal aid office and are left with almost no options for legal assistance.”
Here are a few examples of some of the programs available. To suggest a rural-focused initiative not featured on this list, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on rural law practice, go to texasbar.com/smalltown.
Distance Lawyering Project
A collaboration between the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the Texas Young Lawyers Association, this program uses phone, email, or videoconferencing to connect volunteer attorneys with rural self-represented litigants who are seeking an uncontested divorce and need to discuss their case with an attorney. trla.org/DistanceLawyering/
Texas Access to Justice Commission Pro Bono Spring Break
Last year, more than 60 Texas law students participated in this annual program and used their spring break to work in locations across the state—including rural areas—where they assisted clients with legal matters from disability rights to family law. texasatj.org/pro-bono-spring-break
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Each year, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid helps more than 20,000 low-income Texans through Community Justice Programs and legal and referral clinics. The organization spans 68 counties in Southwest Texas, many of which are rural, and can tailor opportunities to volunteers. The organization also collaborates with the University of Texas School of Law on its Rural Outreach Initiative that educates rural residents on their legal rights and available legal services. trla.org/support/volunteer